Opponents of wind turbines in Prince Edward County aren’t holding their breath waiting for the provincial moratorium on offshore wind turbines imposed last week to include land-based projects as well.
Mayor Peter Mertens said he is hopeful the decision is an indication the province may be becoming more cautious with both offshore and onshore wind projects.
“At this point, it’s anyone’s guess whether this new thinking will apply to onshore turbine projects as well,” he said, “but given the minister’s comments on our request to have a moratorium placed on all projects suggests it won’t.
“At least, I’m not overly optimistic.”
Members of the The County Coalition for Safe and Appropriate Green Energy are also hopeful Friday’s decision signals the province moving in a different direction.
“We are hopeful this (offshore moratorium) signals that the province is starting to realize the extent of the negative impacts of industrial wind developments have on the local environment, whether on or off shore,” the coalition’s Orval Walsh said.
“Responsible provincial ministries should begin to apply a needed and much more scientific and precautionary approach to all industrial wind approvals.
“For Prince Edward County, where all of the proposed onshore projects are considered to be near-shore projects, many of the same concerns – migratory birds, noise propagation over water – are applicable. A hold on any and all approvals should also be applied until all the needed research has been done for onshore, near shore and offshore.”
The Ontario government’s decision on offshore wind development temporarily rules out Trillium Power’s proposed project around Main Duck Island and toward Prince Edward Point, as well as Gilead Power’s plans along the County’s south shore.
Land-based projects, such as Gilead’s Ostrander Point Wind Park, are still planning to proceed.
“The government’s pattern of rash decision-making suggests it may soon have to recognize the adverse environmental and health effects of all wind development,” said Walsh.
“The Hanna case and the appeal, in Chatham-Kent, to the Environmental Review Tribunal will soon establish the scientific facts and invalidate the current setback regulations.”
In January, Ian Hanna of Big Island had his challenge of the health impacts of wind turbine setbacks under the Green Energy Act heard in a Toronto courtroom. A decision is expected sometime this spring.
Henri Garand, chairperson of Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County, said many of the concerns are the same for offshore and onshore turbines.
“The news about a moratorium on offshore wind development in the Great Lakes is good news for those who are concerned about environmental effects like the interference with bird migration,” he said.
“However, the land-based projects in South Marysburgh and Athol also pose this harm.”
Garand said that according to a Stantec report, on Wolfe Island, for the period July 2009 through June 2010, the mortality rate for birds was 13.4 per turbine and for bats was 20.0 per turbine.
“These numbers far exceed the wind industry’s predicted average of two birds per turbine,” he said. “Since (Prince Edward County) is the main shoreline for birds crossing Lake Ontario, wind projects here will have at least similar statistics, if not much worse.”
Garand said impending court decisions could change the province’s position on onshore projects.
“It’s a pity the Ontario government’s admission of the need for scientific studies doesn’t extend to land-based projects, where the concerns include human health,” he said, “but this will change when the decisions come down from the Hanna case and the Environmental Review Tribunal in Chatham-Kent. Meanwhile, wind developers like Gilead Power may be desperate to proceed with projects in the county. They will meet with stiff public resistance.”