Wildlife

Wind turbines create dead zones

Wind turbines create dead zones as wildlife vanish from areas that are surrounded by wind turbines. Reports from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service state that while wildlife might pass through these areas that they abandon their habitat choosing to live at least 10 miles away. This is confirmed on Wolfe Island, where short‐eared owls have abandoned their traditional habitat causing population dispersal. A resident living near Clear Creek Wind Farm in Norfolk County noted in an interview with CBC that wildlife has vanished from the area where she lives: “Now there’s no deer, no geese, no wild turkeys. Nothing.”

Wind turbines affect wildlife

According to wildlife biologist Dr. Scott Petrie clusters of wind turbines act as barriers to migrating bats, birds and butterflies. Birds suffer instant death or prolonged fatal injury from a run‐in with moving turbine blades, towers and transmission lines. The tower lights on the turbines add to the toll by attracting and/or confusing exhausted migrants at night and in foggy conditions.

Some migrants give industrial wind turbines a wide berth, thus increasing their energy expenditures and potentially reducing their fat stores. Migrants that arrive in the Prince Edward County IBA in the spring are already stressed and exhausted after a long journey across Lake Ontario. In being forced to travel even longer distances in order to bypass wind turbines and then having to find other suitable feeding and resting sites further jeopardizes their chances of survival.

Wind turbines obstruct the daily movements of wildlife as they move to and from resting and feeding areas. Raptors are significantly affected as they look down and sideways while flying and do not see the whirling blades in front of them. Bats have been lost by the thousands as they are attracted to the turbines for reasons unknown and are either struck by the turbine blades or die from barrel trauma when they encounter the air pressure changes in the air space adjacent to the moving blades. When barrel trauma occurs blood vessels and lungs and other organs rupture causing death.

Cumulative effects from industrial wind turbines pose major threats to wildlife. Direct collisions with wind turbines, barrier effects causing population dispersal and loss of traditional and specialized habitat are only some of the concerns. The effects that any specific wind turbine project will have on wildlife depends on a number of inter‐related factors such as turbine siting, habitats that are present in the area, the number and species of birds that are present in the area, the topography of the land, the location of the wind project relative to large bodies of water and increases in the number of turbines from new wind projects in the area. Despite the fact that cumulative effects studies are required by MNR’s statement of values, cumulative effects studies are not being carried out for WPD Canada’s White Pines project.

Wind turbines affect on threatened and endangered species

The cumulative effects of wind turbines on at‐risk species is a great cause for concern. The removal of even small numbers from a population of a species that is already in trouble will lead to a steady decline in numbers. When losses of members of at‐risk species goes on over a period of years, whether from collisions with wind turbines or from the loss of suitable habitat or for other reasons, this considerably lessens the chances of that species’ recovery. The only sustainable population of whooping cranes in the wild has steadily declined over the past six years, with the loss of 100 cranes in the past year alone. Since the decline in their numbers coincides with the rapid expansion of wind turbines in their migration corridor, known as the Central Flyway, conservationists are concerned that the migrating whooping cranes are colliding with wind turbines. The last official count for the Central Flyway whooping crane was 245.

During the past year, wind turbine developers in Ontario have sought permits to kill, harm and harass at‐risk species as well as to damage and destroy their habitat. This includes such at risk species as Eastern Meadowlarks, Bobolinks and Whip‐poor‐will. In April 2012 the Ontario Budget Bill 55 included measures to exempt industrial wind developers from the Endangered Species Act. There are at least 19 species at risk in the South Shore of Prince Edward County that are threatened by Gilead Power’s wind project at Ostrander Point and WPD Canada’s White Pines wind project.

Prince Edward County Field Naturalists have published a detailed review of the impact of turbines on the habitat, birds, and endangered species at Ostrander Point. To read about how the South Shore Important Bird Area from Point Petre to Prince Edward Point will no longer be a natural habitat and refuge for migrating birds and bats after the arrival of wind factories go to http://naturestuff.net/site/images/stories/Organizations/organizations_pecfn_ostrander.pdf

Ted Cheskey of Nature Canada has published several articles on the impact that industrial wind turbines will have on wildlife at Ostrander Point. Click and scroll http://naturecanadablog.blogspot.ca/search/label/Ostrander%20Point

The Wolfe Island Experience

Ted Cheskey has reported on the impact IWTs are already having on wildlife at Wolfe Island. Cheskey’s 2011 report affirms that TransAlta’s Wolfe Island Wind Energy plant is one of the most destructive for birds and bats in North America. To read the report go to:http://naturecanadablog.blogspot.ca/2011/07/wolfe‐island‐wind‐farm‐still‐one‐of.html

Cheskey’s most recent report raises significant concerns about placing wind turbines in areas with far larger migration populations and in areas containing specialized habitats: TransAlta has just released its fourth Report on bird and bat monitoring from its Wolfe Island wind plant located on the west side of Wolfe Island, near Kingston Ontario. The report affirms that TransAlta’s Wolfe Island Wind Energy plant is one of the most destructive for birds and bats in North America. The results of the report reinforce the significance for birds and bats of the open scrubland habitat on the offshore islands at the eastern end of Lake Ontario, and onshore alvar habitats such as those found on Ostrander Point in Prince Edward County or Amherst Island. Wind energy plants, transmission towers, and other types of developments that put birds and bats at high risk should be excluded from these significant areas.

To date, Wolfe Island has experienced the highest recorded rate for raptor kills outside of California. This number crossed the “notification threshold” for the project, so that the Canadian Wildlife Service and MNR were notified four times about the high rates. No response has been received from MNR and no changes have been made to the project.

As shockingly high as the bird and bat kill counts on Wolfe Island are these counts are only of the carcasses that are reported by the wind companies. In terms of achieving accurate counts of bird and bats that are killed, the reporting system at Wolfe Island is  set up to fail. For example, although Wolfe Island is known for its wintering raptors only three winter raptor surveys were done between 2006 – 2010. Not only were surveys not done consistently over five years, they were done poorly: the surveys in the second half of the years when they were done consisted of 4 outings of about 3 hours each where spotters were driven around looking for raptors. There are many other flaws in the methods used by wind companies when searching for carcasses and when preparing reports. For example birds carcasses that are outside a one metre perimeter of the wind turbines are not included in the count. Several turbines are not even included in the survey; the only reported raptor deaths are based on carcass counts around only designated turbines. No attempts have been made to estimate counts for the total TransAlta wind project on Wolfe Island.

Even the most stringent reporting system however would not account for all of the dead birds and bats. Many are thrown too far from the site to be counted. Many others are removed from the site by scavengers. When small birds are struck by the turbine blades usually no trace of them remains. Injured birds, particularly large raptors, will leave the turbine site if they are able to do so and will die elsewhere.

Wind turbine setbacks for wildlife

In their report on “Threats from industrial wind turbines to Ontario’s wildlife and biodiversity” Keith Stelling and Dr. Scott Petrie state that the 120 metre setback from Significant Wildlife Habitat is not biologically defensible. They go on to observe that the regulations in Ontario even allow proponents to place developments within Significant Wildlife Habitats when they claim they can “mitigate” adverse effects.

Are there any safe setback distances for wildlife? Because most birds and many other species travel considerable distances every day, and because their movements cannot be controlled by traffic signage, it is reasonable that minimum turbine setback distances from wildlife areas should be much greater than they should be for human residences. Stelling and Dr. Petre recommend in their report that wind turbines must not be placed within 2 km of coastal and other provincially significant wetlands and should not be placed on major migratory corridors or in agricultural fields traditionally used by large concentrations of wildlife. To read the report by Keith Stelling and Dr. Petrie on the threat of wind turbines to Ontario’s wildlife and biodiversity go to http://docs.wind‐watch.org/stelling‐petrie‐policy‐guidance‐document‐final.pdf 

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