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.