Senate calls for moratorium on some turbines due to bird kills

The Senate of Canada recently unanimously backed a motion by Senator Bob Runciman calling on Ontario to institute a moratorium on wind-farm development along eastern Lake Ontario until the impact on birds and bats can be studied.

Runciman noted the region from the eastern tip of Wolfe Island to the western end of Prince Edward County is a crucial route for migratory birds and bats.

He is concerned about plans for wind energy projects on Amherst Island west of Kingston and at Ostrander Point in Prince Edward County, both of which would be located in internationally-recognized important bird areas.

Both projects were in the final stages of approval by the Ontario government.

“Much of my concern flows from the bird and bat kill rates experienced with the development of the wind farm on Wolfe Island, east of the two proposed projects and also in a designated important bird area,” Runciman said, noting that Nature Canada officials stated Wolfe Island has a kill rate for birds and bats seven times the industry average in Canada primarily because it is located in the wrong spot.

Runciman lauded Nature Canada for its leadership on the issue, but noted, “They’ve been a voice in the wilderness, so to speak.

“Environmental groups one would expect to assist in protecting bird populations have been silent, in effect allowing green energy production to trump alarming bird and bat kill rates and even the threat to endangered species.”

Environment Canada described Ostrander Point as one of the best areas for birds in southern Ontario, Runciman said.

“It’s surprising that someone believes it is a good idea to put wind turbines on this spot. Hard as it is to believe, the landlord, the owner of the property, is the province of Ontario.

“Clean renewable energy should help, not harm, wildlife,” Runciman told fellow senators.

He added the long-term cumulative effect of the current Ontario policy could pose a grave danger to several species, including species at risk.

No health risk, says province

Meanwhile, the provincial government was proceeding with its wind energy program.

It announced in a press release that an expert report has concluded there is no direct health risk from wind turbine sound at Ontario’s regulated setback distance.

Noise, vibration and acoustics experts Howe Gastmeier Chapnik Limited (HGC Engineering) conducted the study. 

The study analyzed the latest findings on low frequency noise and infrasound from wind turbines. In addition, three experts in the field of noise, vibration and acoustics reviewed and validated the report.

The report found the province’s rules to control wind turbine sound are rigorous. It stated Ontario has one of the strictest noise limits in North America, which includes a 550 metre minimum setback, based on a 40 decibel limit.

Those requirements align with the limits set by the World Health Organization.  

Minister of the Environment Jim Bradley said, “Our priority is to develop renewable energy in a way that protects Ontarians. This report finds that we are on the right track by taking a cautious approach when setting standards for wind turbine setbacks and sound limits.”

Provincial officials say they are phasing out coal fired electricity by 2014 and increasing renewable energy like wind, solar and biomass.

The consultants considered more than 100 papers and reports from Ontario, Alberta, and countries around the world.

The government has promised it will continue to monitor the evolving science’s technical developments, and any emerging regulatory policies introduced in other countries.