Environmentalists worry that proposed Lake Ontario wind farm threatens wildlife
A proposal to build a wind farm on the Canadian shore of Lake Ontario has created an uproar among people worried about birds and wildlife.
The environmental group heading the opposition, Nature Canada, opposes the location at Ostrander Point because it is in the middle of an important bird area.
“The important bird areas are the most important places for birds in our country,” said Ted Cheskey, manager of the bird conservation program at Nature Canada. “It’s a global program, so they really represent the most important places for birds on earth.”
There are about 600 important areas for birds in Canada. Of those, 345 are globally significant, Cheskey said. Ostrander Point in the center of Prince Edward County’s south shore is one of them.
Members of Nature Canada worry that birds and bats will collide with turbine blades. They are also concerned that the development will fragment the unique wildlife habitat, threatening many endangered species such as the Whip-poor-will, Henslow’s sparrow and the Rusty blackbird, Cheskey said. Other endangered wildlife like the Blanding’s turtle may also be at risk.
“We don’t think it’s green energy anymore if it’s damaging biodiversity,” Cheskey said. “If it’s killing large numbers of birds and bats, then it’s no longer justifiable.”
The developer, Gilead Power, believes that the impact on the habitat is minimal. After four years of studies, the company modified the project to better suit the environment, Mike Lord, vice president of project development at Gilead Power, said in an email.
It reduced the number of turbines from 12 to nine, and rerouted the access roads to avoid wetlands and woodlands, Lord said.
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So why not build the turbines further inland to avoid the important bird area altogether?
The winds tend to be stronger the closer you get to the lake. Unfortunately, a lot of the places that are important for birds have high potential for wind. Prince Edward County is also government-owned land, and Ontario provides incentives for wind energy providers to build, Cheskey said.
Gilead is proposing a 22.5-megawatt wind farm that would provide for around 5,600 homes per year.
Some Canadian officials may oppose the location, but most are so focused on reducing carbon emissions by closing coal-fired power plants that endangered species issues fall by the wayside, Cheskey said.
Gilead is waiting on a response to its application from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources.
If the project is approved, construction is scheduled to begin in August 2012, with testing in November 2012 and commercial operation by December 2012.