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.

Nature Canada members worry that wind turbines will threaten already endangered birds like Henslow’s sparrows. Photo: U.S. Geological Survey

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.

View Prince Edward County in a larger map

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.

  • Spurwing Plover

    Hey many green groups support wind energy so their guilty of hypocracy

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  • Daryl

    The reason government throws taxpayer money away at not-ready-for-prime-time showcase projects and not at basic R&D which would hasten the day when Alternative Energy would be economically rational is that post-docs and grad students provide only niggardly, if any, campaign donations while the backers of Wind turbines and solar farms are very generous.

    References:
    Golden Eagles Vs. Big Wind Farm: Who Wins?
    http://www.earthtechling.com/2012/01/golden-eagles-vs-big-wind-farm-who-wins/2/

    Britain’s Green Economy: 15 Landowners To Receive £850 Million In Wind Subsidies
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/energy/windpower/9076458/Wind-industrys-extensive-lobbying-to-preserve-subsidies-and-defeat-local-resistance-to-turbines.html

    Wind And Solar Power: Uncooperative Reality
    by American Enterprise Institute, January 20th, 2012
    http://www.earthtechling.com/2012/01/wind-and-solar-power-uncooperative-reality/

    Broken down and rusting, is this the future of Britain’s ‘wind rush’?
    Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2116877/Is-future-Britains-wind-rush.html#ixzz1pXOxD1E3

  • I heart wetlands

    Hey Brian!

    Thanks for the reply. Yes the article does state that in the first line – so why doesn’t the title say “wildlife folks?” Why is it always “THE Environmentalists?” Check the headlines – in fact another one posted on Echo yesterday was titled “More UP Mining in Michigan’s UP worries enviros.” Why is it enviros? What exactly is an “enviro” or an “environmentalist?” Why can’t we say “citizens” or “concerned citizens?” Its just annoying to see every natural resource related article starting out with a headline with contentious and divisive language – it’s always “THE ENVIROS.” ugh. I just would like to see some less divisive language in environmental reporting.

  • Brian Bienkowski

    I heart wetlands, thanks for the comment.

    In the article, the very first line actually, the reporter writes, “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.”

    Sounds pretty similar to your suggestions actually.

    The headline does say environmentalists because, for brevity’s sake, we cannot say “citizens concerned about wildlife” in a headline.

    -Brian Bienkowski

  • I heart wetlands

    To the writer: Can we please all stop using the term “Environmentalist” for every person or group that has an opinion on a resource?? I wish reporters would come up with more descriptive and accurate terms to use in their stories. The term really has no meaning any more. Why not say “wildlife advocates” or “citizens concerned about wildlife?” The term “environmentalist” has been a term for a long time used by “non-environmentalists” to stoke suspicion about and pigeon-hole the “environmentalists” into some leftist, radical group that is out to overthrow the government and economy while ruining all our lives on account of their protesting. It’s almost become a derogatory term, in my opinion. These days everyone from Dow and Shell to the small farmer concerned about GMO’s and water quality are considered “environmentalists.” So can we please come up with more accurate ways to describe the subjects of these stories?

  • Jennifer Kalish

    Clarification for Mike: Birds and bats collide with turbine blades occasionally — turtles do not, because they don’t fly. The Blanding’s turtle is an endangered species that resides in Prince Edward County, Ontario. Since the primary threat for that particular species is habitat fragmentation, many environmentalists are worried that the proposed habitat destruction in Ostrander’s Point will pose a serious risk for Blanding’s turtles.

  • Tim

    I agree with Harold on all the points he made. I would like to add that the addition of a shroud outside of the blade tips increases capacity as much as 3 times and reduces impact on birds and bats by making the turbines more “visible” to the wildlife.

  • Mike

    I can understand how the birds get chopped up. Blanding turtles? Kind of makes one skeptical of the whole thing when the author says something so unbelievable.

  • Jannie

    Solar rooftop — doesn’t make as much money for the companies. And solar doesn’t have the lobbyist wind does. Note the wind turbines in ads for other items. My guess is they (wind companies) pay to have those put in or use the same ad agencies.

  • Maureen
  • Harold

    We need to immediately put more emphasis on promoting solar energy. There are millions of rooftops across the country that could have solar panels installed with little to no impact on the environment. We also need to redesign wind turbines so that we are using vertical axis turbines which can be more readily detected by bats and birds. Our sky-scaper buildings, communication towers and glass windows already kill billions of migratory birds each year. It is unconscionable to add to the carnage.