Industrial wind turbines pose a significant risk to Ontario waterfowl, a speaker told an audience Thursday night.
Scott Petrie was in the city to talk about how the turbines affect the natural world.
But, he added, it isn’t an issue that will catch the public’s ear – and he knows this.
“Most people don’t care about wildlife,” he told a small crowd of 15 people in the amphitheatre at the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters Mario Cortelluci Hunting and Fishing Heritage Centre.
“Eight out of 10 people don’t care about waterfowl – but 10 out of 10 care about their own health and their property values.”
That’s how the message will get out there: that wind turbines are bad for Ontario.
Petrie, the outdoors group’s executive director of the Lake Erie-based Long Point waterfowl program, talked about the threat the turbines pose to wildlife, but his lecture also touched on concerns about human health and the overall cost of the program to Ontarians.
Property values have dropped 25 to 40%, he said, and people have reported health concerns in areas near Lake Erie where wind farms have been built.
Ontario plans to allow more than 5,000 turbines over the next few years, he said – but they’ll only benefit Americans and Quebec as Ontario sells the power they generate cheaply in an effort to get rid of it.
He produced figures showing how little an impact wind power has on the provincial grid, saying nuclear and water power are the future.
At first, Petrie explained, he liked the idea of wind power from giant turbines, looking at it is as green alternative to coal and nuclear energy.
“But I didn’t know what I didn’t know,” he said.
His work took him across Ontario and to Denmark to study the effects of wind power on migratory waterfowl, and he soon learned that while waterfowl – geese, ducks, cranes – know to steer clear of the giant blades, the construction of the turbines can involve a million pounds of concrete – and that has an effect on bird habitats.
Other birds die in the turbine blades, he said; bald eagles and some owls, along with bats, are found dead below the turbines.
Jane Zednik, of Cavan Monaghan Township, wondered why concerned people can’t file a complaint if birds die because of wind turbines. She cited the death several years ago of 230 ducks in the oilsands of Alberta, after which companies were fined.
“If I see a dead bird, who do I call?” she asked.
Petrie told her he’d be intrigued to see that happen, calling it a test case.
“In Alberta, that project wasn’t considered ‘green,’ while this one is,” he said.
Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, where onshore and offshore turbines are planned, are at the intersection of two major bird migratory routes, he said. Seven million birds stop off there every spring, while 12.8 million (because of new births) pass through on their way south in the fall.
Petrie said government-sponsored studies of the effect of the turbines on bird populations were slanted toward their own timelines.
A politician’s timeline, he said, is only about four years, while scientists need years, or decades, to determine the effects of something new.
“Those turbines are going up as fast as they can get them up,” he said.