Scientist and Executive Director of Long Point Waterfowl, Dr. Scott Petrie, says that after years of trying to encourage the corporate wind power development industry to do the right thing to protect important bird habitats in Ontario, the companies are now not only refusing to cooperate, they’re not even returning his calls.
Dr. Petrie was particularly involved with AIM PowerGen prior to the Green Energy Act, providing advice on industrial wind turbine (IWT) placement at the company’s project at Long Point. “At first, they were very cooperative,” he says, “even moving some turbine locations when they heard my concerns. But then along came the Green Energy Act, the associated competition for business, and the completely inadequate guidelines to protect birds and bats. We have a completely different situation today.”
The situation, Petrie says, is that some areas where turbine developments are being constructed and planned are, as he says, “the worst possible places to put a wind power project.” He says that avian and bat mortality rates at improperly placed wind farms are unacceptable. He also says that wind turbine developers and the government have ignored the fact that there will be cumulative ecological impacts associated with placing thousands of wind turbines on the landscape and in the lakes. As a Waterfowl Ecologist, Petrie is particularly concerned that wind turbines are being placed within critically important habitats and on migratory routes with no regard for avian displacement. “When you place a turbine in or very close to critical habitats, and birds subsequently avoid those areas, it is tantamount to habitat loss, and we have already lost 85 per cent of our Great Lake’s coastal wetlands.”
GDF Gulf Suez’s planned East St Clair project on agricultural land near the wetlands at Mud Creek is a case in point. Dr. Petrie says the turbines will be less than 800 meters from a Bald Eagle nest and less than 100 meters from waterfowl staging wetlands that are important to the whole of North America.
“We have an international obligation to protect those wetlands and the wildlife that use them,“ says Dr. Petrie. “Many turbines will be placed in agricultural fields that have been used for centuries by tremendous populations of field-feeding ducks, geese and swans. You would not be permitted to build an office tower in and adjacent to these critically important habitats,” Petrie says, “so why can wind developers blanket these areas with hundreds of wind turbines?”
“As a scientist, I shouldn’t have to prove that wind turbines adversely impact birds. The onus and associated costs should not be imposed upon the people of Ontario–it should be up to wind developers to pay for and prove that there will be no risks associated with these developments.”
Dr. Petrie is also dismayed that the Green Energy Act is an omnibus act that provides inadequate protection for critical habitats. Even worse, he says, is the fact that the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources has established totally inadequate recommendations for the placement of wind turbines in the province. Many non-government wildlife agencies (e.g., Ducks Unlimited, the American Bird Conservancy, the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters), over 80 municipal governments, and now, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, have requested that a moratorium be placed on all further wind turbine developments.
“It should be obvious to the provincial government that the citizens of Ontario are extremely concerned that the wanton construction of thousands of industrial wind turbines will adversely impact wildlife, human health, property values, and the economy,” says Dr. Petrie.
Dr. Scott Petrie is also an Adjunct Professor in Biology at the University of Western Ontario.