Will wind energy farms with hundreds of turbine towers and blades reaching up more than 100 meters have an impact on this area’s international reputation as a corridor for migrating birds and monarch butterflies?
That could turn out to be the biggest question wind farm developers have to answer as they prepare to unveil local sites for their multimillion dollar projects.
Two major international flyways for migrating birds cross in Essex County, making Point Pelee National Park one of the premier spots for birding in North America.
The migration of raptors through Holiday Beach Conservation Area, and the Canada Geese gathering at the Jack Miner Bird Sanctuary near Kingsville are also well known.
Marian Stranak, superintendent at Point Pelee National Park, has written to every county municipality to warn of its significance as a migratory corridor for hundreds of thousands of birds and bats as plans for wind energy are developed.
Point Pelee has also been designated as a wetland of international significance and proposed as a monarch butterfly reserve in co-operation with the U.S. and Mexico, Stranak said.
Almost 400 species of birds have been seen at Point Pelee, says Stranak. “In the context of migration we’re pretty important.”
Yet, the draft official plan and zoning bylaw proposals unveiled by Lakeshore this week to accommodate wind energy projects make no mention of Point Pelee or bird migration as an issue for developers.
Lakeshore stretches almost the width of the county, with the north-south Mississippi migration flyway passing overhead.
Ian Kerr, a senior manager for Brookfield Power, which has a wind farm proposal in Lakeshore, was aware of the Atlantic migration route in Essex County, which follows the Lake Erie shoreline, but not the Mississippi flyway.
Kerr said his company should have a site-specific project to unveil in about three months. Its studies on the impacts aren’t complete, he said.
Stranak said Parks Canada doesn’t get involved in municipal planning. But the federal agency will be commenting – along with the Canadian Wildlife Service – on the federal or provincial environmental assessments required for local wind energy projects, she said.
Matthew Child, director of watershed restoration for the Essex Region Conservation Authority (ERCA), said in addition to the migratory routes, local movements of birds along rivers and shorelines should also be considered when wind farms are sited.
Child hopes the $80,000 planning study on wind energy about to be undertaken by Essex County will answer a lot of the questions about impacts on birds and other species.
Mike Crawley, president of AIM PowerGen Corp., also with a project planned for Lakeshore, says newer designs of turbines with larger, slower moving blades and a tubular tower that birds can’t perch on or nest in pose less of a risk to birds.
Crawley said the number of birds killed by turbines also needs to be put in perspective. More than 100 million birds are believed killed by household cats in the U.S. annually, compared to about 33,000 by wind turbines, Crawley told a public meeting in Comber this week.
Other studies have noted the many millions of birds killed each year in the U.S. in collisions with buildings, glass windows, communication towers, transmission lines and moving vehicles. Still, critics say the relatively small number of wind turbines makes comparisons about their dangers to birds premature.
Other issues, such as the lighting of turbine towers or the noise generated also have roles in their attraction to birds.
Thursday, May 31, 2007
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