Category Archives: Wildlife

Heath Gets It

The town of Heath, Massachusetts, like many other town faced with wind turbine projects, formed a committee to study the issue.  Their final report is a very accurate  and very readable compilation of the issues surrounding wind energy.  Hats off to the members who took the time to do the research and had the strength to do it honestly.

Heath, Final Report, text

Heath, Final Report, full

Unfortunately, the Town of Heath hasn’t posted the report on its web site, so there’s no link to the original.  In the meantime, the town has proposed a bylaw that outright bans wind turbines within the town.  UPDATE, February 27, 2013 – Heath voters unanimously passed the ban.

The Eagle’s Nest

By now probably everyone who reads this already knows about the removal of an active eagle’s nest near Fisherville, Ontario, by Nextera.  The tree (a 100+ year-old cottonwood) and nest were apparently in the way of several turbines and Nextera was unwilling to move the turbines or the service road to spare the nest.  The pair have been reported flying around the area looking for the nest.  The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) was responsible for the decision, and one has to wonder if there’s anything they wouldn’t be willing to sacrifice in order to build the turbines.  To date the MNR has approved anything and everything – except anywhere close to the Toronto area where the current government’s supporters mostly live.   Continue reading The Eagle’s Nest

Wolfe Island Bird Report #6

Stantec published their report #6 [backup link] on the state of the birds on Wolfe Island, Ontario, back in July.  I’d normally be reporting on it sooner, but they changed the linkage to it and I was unaware of its publication until recently.  It covers the second half of 2011.  In any event, this report isn’t particularly note-worthy, with a continuation of previous trends. Continue reading Wolfe Island Bird Report #6

Cumulative Effects

UPDATE – it turns out that the “Osprey” Conservation Area has nothing to do with ospreys – it was the name of a nearby town.  I’m now trying to find out what sorts of wildlife does live there, and I’ll update accordingly.

A major criticism of Ontario’s approval process for wind projects is that each project is “considered” by itself.  At no point is there any review of all the projects in an area to see if together they represent an environmental issue.  As an example of this problem, while reviewing the maps on my Ontario Wind Turbines site I noticed the area just north of the Melancthon project.  Here’s an enlargable snapshot of the area:

Note the empty space in the middle of those projects?  One has to wonder why nobody is proposing anything for there.  Looking closer, note the “Osprey Wetland Conservation Lands”.  At least nobody is proposing a project for the Conservation Area.  Originally I thought (of course) that resident ospreys had named the Area but I find out that a town did.  Still, whatever uses that area is going to be surrounded.  I wonder if there will be any studies undertaken to discover the impacts.

Ostrander Point Submissions

Gilead Power wants to put a wind energy project at Ostrander Point, which is possibly the worst place to put one – right in the middle of an Important Bird Area, and right in the middle of a major migratory route.  Ontario owns the property with the Ontario MNR overseeing it.  The Ontario MOE voluntarily opened up the project to public comment, citing the “harming, killing and harassing” of two endangered species (Blanding’s turtle and the Whip-poor-will) who had found the Point to be suitable habitat.

The comment period was ended yesterday, February 19, and I imagine they got hundreds of comments, many of them well-researched and documented.  One very powerful submission was a letter from Ian Dubin, along with a longer more detailed Information Note.  They are both suitably-written for a general audience and are worth the time.

Dubin, Ostrander Point Letter

Dubin, Ostrander Point Information Note

I also emailed in a submission, not nearly as well-put-together as Dubin’s.  Who knows, maybe something will get traction.  If Ostrander point is sacrificed, why stop there?  White Pines is next, followed by Amherst Island, etc etc.

Gulden, Ostrander Point Submission

Wolfe Island Bird Report #5

Stantec has just released report #5, which covers the first half of 2011 on Wolfe Island.  This was generally an uneventful report, with many of the patterns established in the first 4 reports continuing.  At least I don’t have as many criticisms of Stantec as I did in my critique of their report #4.  For instance, the power production on the days they did the survey wasn’t always minimal.  Still, these reports continue to document just how much Wolfe Island has been impacted.  Obviously bird populations vary widely from year to year for a number of reasons, and Stantec takes advantage of variation to present every possible reason why the populations are down, except of course to blame their turbines.  Here’s the summary.

  • Birds: 31 carcasses found, adjusted to 131, down from the report of a year ago.
  • Raptors: 7 carcasses found, adjusted to 16, up a bit.
  • Bats: 7 carcasses found, adjusted to 41, down from last year.
  • Winter raptor density: improved from last year, at 0.54/km.
  • Notifications: 6, half for raptors, half for Bobolinks. Continue reading Wolfe Island Bird Report #5

I Make the Whig

Normally I just sit at my computer doing research and posting my conclusions on this web site.  Periodically someone calls and wants to discuss some aspect of what I’ve written.  Paul Schliesmann, a reporter from the Kingston Whig-Standard, called me recently and we had a nice 30-minute conversation.  His immediate interest was the kill rate on Wolfe Island (see my WI Bird Report #4) but we discussed a wide range of issues relating to wind turbines.

That discussion led to an article that appeared the next day in the Whig.  I’m pleased to say that the article accurately conveys the gist of what we discussed, and I thank Paul for being unbiased in his reporting.

The link to the article in the Whig.

Backup Copy.

Wolfe Island Bird Report #4

Stantec has just released report #4, covering the 2nd half of 2010 on Wolfe Island.  To read the executive summary you’d think the birds and bats were doing just fine.  But, similar to reports #2 and #3, when you start digging into the numbers you find the slaughter continues, and in the case of bats even accelerates.  Stantec, being on the payroll of the project developer, is doing its best to put the best face it can on the numbers, but unfortunately that seems to include gaming them when necessary.  I’ll get into specifics later, of course, but for now here’s my summary.

  • Birds: 54 carcasses found, adjusted to 703, an all-time high.
  • Raptors: 8 carcasses found, adjusted to 8.
  • Bats: 111 carcasses found, adjusted to 1878, an all-time high.
  • Winter raptor density: improved from a very poor 2009’s rate of 0.2/km to 0.7/km.
  • Notifications:  8, mostly for bats, none for raptors.

Links to everything

Details on Bird Fatalities

703 birds were killed in this 2H2010 period, compared to 602 in 2H2009 – a number that made the papers.  Stantec claims that rate is 3.60 birds/MW (~703/198) but then they directly compare this 6-month rate to Arnett’s Table 1, which contains annual rates.  For the year 2010 an estimated total of 1207 birds were killed, a rate of 6.28 birds/MW.  This makes Wolfe Island the second-most prolific killer of birds in Arnett’s list.  Stantec rightly claims that this rate is below the 11.7 rate at which mitigation starts, but if you look at Arnett’s Table 1 you can see how that rate was set by MNR – they simply took the largest number and set that as the limit.  As I mentioned in my Prelude to #3, this number has nothing to so with sustainability.

Details on Raptor Fatalities

8 raptors were killed in this 2H2010 period, and Stantec claims that translates to a rate of 0.04 birds/MW, and again compare that number to Arnett’s Table 1.  The mitigation threshold for raptors was set at 0.09 birds/MW, in a manner similar to the threshold for birds – they simply took the largest number in Arnett’s table.  For the entire 2010 a total of 21 raptors were killed, a rate of 0.096, which is above the threshold.  I can only surmise that the calculators at MNR don’t work very well.  There was a mention of mitigation after report #3, when Stantec and MNR could no longer deny the obvious, but the mitigation consisted of continuing to study the problem.  There’s no mention of continuing mitigation with this report.  Is this rate sustainable?  Nobody knows.

Details on Bat Fatalities

1878 bats were killed in this 2H2010 period.  This compares to 1270 killed during 2H2009 – a number that made a number of newspapers.  I can only hope this even larger number makes more newspapers.  For the year 2010 an estimated total of 2327 bats were killed, an annual rate of 11.75 bats/MW.  That is below, just barely, the mitigation threshold of 12.5.  And how was 12.5 arrived at?  It was simply the average mortality rate at nearby Maple Ridge, NY.  Is this rate sustainable?  Nobody knows.  A more recent MNR threshold was set at 10 bats/turbine which equates to 4.3 bats/MW at Wolfe Island, but Wolfe Island gets grandfathered to the higher number.  Still, Transalta is volunteering to consider raising the cut-in speed during prime bat season to cut mortality.  I certainly hope it is effective.  I cannot imagine that Wolfe Island could sustain a loss of 2300+ bats per year.

Wintering Raptor Density

As I’ve mentioned in my earlier reports, I consider the maintenance of the habitat more important than the mortality.  Wolfe Island is known for its wintering raptors and monitoring their overall numbers is one part of Stantec’s responsibilities.  Stantec tries to paint a rosy picture, saying the number of raptors was up from 2009, from a 0.2/km rate to 0.7 in 2010, and almost back to the pre-project 2006 number of 0.8.  But before you accept these numbers there’s some details you ought to know about.

There have been 3 winter raptor surveys (2006, 2009 and 2010) and for the second halves of each of those years the surveys consist of 4 periods of about 3 hours each where spotters are driven around, looking for raptors.

You’ve Got to Look at This Chart

In the chart the top section gives the results of the 12 3-hour sessions where the wintering raptor data was gathered.  By the way, the short-eared owl data was gathered on the same days.  You can see how 2006 was fairly similar to 2010, after recovering from a bad 2009.  I included the surface winds from the Kingston airport, about 7 km away, in MPH (Weather Underground was easier to use than Environment Canada).  While surface winds aren’t necessarily closely related to electric generation there is some correlation.  Why did I include this?  You’ll see…

The bottom part of the chart shows the half-year summaries for the 3 years.  In addition to averaging the previous 3 measures, I’ve added the WIWP MWH’s produced during each 2-month period, some Kingston Christmas Count (KCC) information and the notification numbers.

Stantec mentions the KCC numbers to try to relate WI’s decreases to decreases in the area’s overall raptor population.  In their report #2, as an example, they tried to compare the 75% reduction (0.8 to 0.2) in WI’s raptor population to Kingston’s 15% reduction (1.67 to 1.49).  In this report #4, they also related WI’s return to a “normal” 0.7 rate with Kingston’s return to 2.42.  Now, the units are different (km’s driven vs person-hours) but a ratio of the two gives a pretty good way to discern the reality.  The end of 2010 was very good for raptors around Kingston as evidenced by the 2.42 number.  Did WI participate in these good times?  Not quite, as it didn’t quite get back to the 2006 base numbers.  So even though Kingston’s numbers increased by 45% (1.67 to 2.42), WI’s decreased by 13% (0.8 to 0.7).

Now, why did I include the wind and generation numbers?  Here I will simply present the data and let you come to whatever conclusion you may.  Nov-Dec of 2010 were two good months for the WIWP, averaging almost 34% capacity factor (66.9/198).  During the 12 hours when the surveys were taking place the average generation was 30.4 MW.  I’ve created 2 clickable pictures showing the generation during each month and the days when the surveys took place.

I took the 12 hourly generation numbers from when the surveys were being performed and ran a t-test to see how likely they were a random variation of the overall 2-month’s generation numbers.  The results, p = 0.004, said there was less than a 1% chance.  In 2009, by contrast, the same process yielded a p of 0.68.

An Unfolding Travesty

Prince Edward County, almost-an-island located on the Canadian side of Lake Ontario, is quite a remarkable place.  Off the beaten path, it has developed a largely tourist-based economy based on such things as beautiful unspoiled scenery, artists, good wines and fine dining.  Aside from its importance to the human psyche, it is also very important to migrating birds.  Long Point sticks out into Lake Ontario and many birds (as in thousands upon thousands) land there after a tiring flight across Lake Ontario. As a consequence the entire area is an Important Bird Area.  This area was prominently mentioned during the KFN Workshop and if you want to get a flavor of just how important it is I ask that you take a look there.

It is also pretty windy and thus has attracted the notice of wind energy developers.  You’d think any government that claimed to be “green” wouldn’t be putting wind turbines, with their demonstrated ability to slaughter birds and bats and destroy habitat, into IBAs.  Unfortunately, the current Ontario government doesn’t seem to care one bit, as witnessed by the following pictures, all of which can be clicked on to enlarge. Continue reading An Unfolding Travesty

The KFN Workshop

On March 8, 2011 the Kingston Field Naturalists sponsored a one-day workshop on bird migrations and the effects of wind turbines.  Kingston is in Ontario, Canada, at the eastern end of Lake Ontario and at the head of the Thousand Islands.  Further, it is located roughly halfway between Algonquin Park and Adirondack Park.   To say the Kingston area is important for wildlife, especially birds, is to merely state the obvious.

After the Wolfe Island project was put into operation, the KFN became more and more concerned about the effect the project was having on birds.  With the Ostrander Point and Amherst Island and Cape Vincent projects also well advanced that concern was deepened, and thus this workshop was sponsored.

Below are my notes on the speakers.  The main event is at the bottom, where John Bennett, the executive director of the Canadian Sierra Club, presented why he supports wind turbines and the resulting “discussion” made the Kingston newspaper. Continue reading The KFN Workshop

Wolfe Island Bird Report #3

Transalta has just released Report #3 (backup link) of their Post Construction Followup Plans, covering the first 6 months of 2010.  For some background you might want to look at my posting on Report #2, which covered the last 6 months of 2009.  For an overview of the regulatory and reporting framework you might want to look at my Report #3 Prelude.  We now have a full year’s worth of reporting from Stantec, the contractor hired to do the studies.  To sum it up, the destruction of the bird and bat habitat on Wolfe continues, albeit at a slower rate than before (it was the colder half of the year, after all).  Stantec’s executive summary tries to put a good face on the numbers, but buried in the details there are hints as to what is really going on there (aside from a curiously-convenient flat-out mistake/typo about the raptor mortality rate).  The most important single item to come out of this report is that Transalta and the MNR have “initiated discussions regarding adaptive management” due to the high raptor mortality rate. Continue reading Wolfe Island Bird Report #3

More on Wolfe Island

As I posted earlier, the carnage of birds and bats on Wolfe Island by the 86 wind turbines there has been substantial, making news around the world.  Now some ornithology heavyweights – William Evans and Gerald Smith – are calling for a moratorium on turbines in the eastern Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River valley.  Good for them, although I doubt it will do much good at this point.  In both New York and Ontario policies have been set and contracts let.  Still, it’s good to see the real experts (as opposed to the mercenaries at Stantec, the industry’s consultants) weigh in on the issues there, along with many details that lend credence to their pleas.  Well worth the read.

Original link, hat-tip to Lake Ontario Waterkeepers

Backup link.

Wolfe Island Bird Report #2

Wolfe Island, located at the mouth of the St. Lawrence river, is in the middle of one of the most important bird areas in the world.  As part of the Wolfe Island Wind Project a plan was drawn up (the PCFP – Post Construction Followup Plan) to monitor the birds for a 3-year period.  The first full half-year report (it’s over 3mb), covering the second half of 2009, has just been published by the consultant, Stantec.  It is report #2 in their series, the first one being for only a month just after start-up.

While this report, authored by people whose paycheck comes from the developer, tries to minimize the effect of the project on the birds, a close reading of the report indicates the problems are significant, as I detail below the fold.

Continue reading Wolfe Island Bird Report #2

The Gulf Oil Spill

Predictably, wind energy proponents are using the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon and the subsequent oil spill as evidence that wind energy would help prevent this type of disaster and thus should be given more government support (i.e. money).  There are two major problems with this line of thinking.  First, wind energy has nothing to do with oil usage – the two are almost completely unrelated.  Second, the real lesson to be learned from this disaster is that environmental assessments of these industrial projects must not be “expedited” just because they are inconvenient for the corporation.

Continue reading The Gulf Oil Spill

Bok on Birds

Chip Bok is a mainstream cartoonist, syndicated in hundreds of newspapers.  So I was quite surprised to see him publish this cartoon.  Maybe our message that wind turbines are not benign is getting out into the mainstream too.  I can only wish.

Chip Bok, May 12, 2010
Chip Bok, May 12, 2010

Wildlife Summary

Of all the issues surrounding wind power, the effect of wind turbines on wildlife is one of the most depressing. If we humans want to destroy ourselves, that’s one thing. But to destroy so many other of Nature’s creatures is truly arrogant. Birds and more recently bats have been in the news, but there have been enough reports of all sorts of wildlife abandoning of habitat around wind turbines that I’ve become genuinely concerned we really don’t (again) know what we’re doing. Continue reading Wildlife Summary