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Wind industry should be accountable for wildlife deaths

Congratulations to Herald reporter J.W. Schnaar for his interview with Robert Hornung, president of the Canadian Wind Energy Association (The Herald, Feb. 8). Mr. Schnaar obviously sought answers to the many negative issues raised about the wind industry within the Opinion pages of the Lethbridge Herald.

The word limit on letters to the editor limits me to comment on only one of Mr. Hornung’s answers. “Are there bird deaths around wind turbines?” He answered, “Absolutely. Per turbine, it’s going to be (four to six) bird deaths per year.” He went on to add that compared to other hazards turbines represented only a “small danger.”

Indeed his bird-kill numbers per turbine seem small but do not count transmission line kills nor bat kills. See http://www.batsandwind.org/pdf/Brown2006.pdf for research done at the Summerview wind farm near Pincher Creek. Moreover, CanWEA lists 1,500 MW of installed capacity in Alberta. If one estimates that one turbine equals 2 MW, then there are approximately 750 turbines in Alberta (a low estimate), each killing four birds per year for a total of 3,000 – not to mention 18 bats per turbine (total 13,500) if one applies Summerview bat findings.

This, of course, is playing with numbers and may not be completely accurate, but all Albertans will remember the international outcry when 1,606 ducks landed in a tailings pond. A whole industry was treated as a pariah; $3 million in penalties were paid; activists jumped all over it and still do.

All of which prompts me to ask: why is the wind industry not in court? Why do activists give it a free pass? If 1,606 ducks trigger a $3-million penalty, how much are raptors, gulls, curlews, perching birds and bats worth? If an industry becomes an international pariah because of accidents involving birds, how is it that the wind industry has not (yet) been held to account?

The answer probably lies in Mr. Hornung’s claim that “The largest single threat to birds today is climate change.” Many believe that stale argument. Activists seem prepared to accept that a few thousand avian deaths per year is a price that must be paid as wind turbines spin to help save the planet. I don’t agree. “Good intentions” does not mean that we should turn a “blind eye” to destructive behaviour. Environmental regulations ought to be applied without bias. The wind industry should also be held accountable.

Shaun Ward