Ontario’s environmental watchdog may be helping opponents of wind power by criticizing the turbines’ effects on bird and bat populations.
Gord Miller, Ontario’s independent Environmental Commissioner, criticized the hasty approval of wind turbines without regard for bird sanctuaries and bat migration routes in a column in Monday’s Star and in his annual report, released Tuesday.
While he was careful to specify that he is not against renewable wind power generation, his criticism reinforces arguments made by citizens’ groups across the province that lobby against the turbines.
“The Ontario government should put additional areas of the province off-limits to wind power projects,” Miller wrote in a statement released with the report.
Miller says an independent body has identified several important bird areas and long-distance bat migratory routes where turbines should be banned.
Renewable energy such as wind and solar play a key role in premier Dalton McGuinty’s plan to shut down coal fired power plants in the province.
Local opposition groups cite many reasons why wind turbines are hazardous, from bird deaths to human health impacts, and Miller’s report supports some of those arguments.
The Ontario-based Society for Wind Vigilance welcomed Tuesday’s report, calling it “a major announcement for people concerned with what the emissions of wind turbines are doing to animal and human life.”
What’s happening to people could easily be happening to animals, though the effects are less understood, said Beth Harrington, a representative of the group which brings together researchers from around the world.
“It’s a universal issue,” she said.
When asked about the perception his criticism of the turbines might create, Miller said that he has always been a strong supporter of wind power.
“The province’s efforts to increase the use of wind power must be balanced against the equally valid goals of protecting Ontario’s wildlife and natural environment,” he said.
International studies have documented environmental impacts of wind turbines that include bird and bat deaths and surface temperature increases.
Most opponents in Ontario cite human health concerns, including sleep loss, stress and adverse psychological effects from low-frequency noise caused by the turbines.
While the Wind Vigilance Society focuses on human health effects, they have also received numerous anecdotal reports from farmers near wind turbine installations saying their livestock is not well. Hunters report that wildlife has disappeared from nearby forests, Harrington said.
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