Industrial Wind Turbines
The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
Written by: Anna Sand
This Monday and Tuesday, will bring to a finale a 4 year legal battle. The fight? To stop the construction of 9 industrial wind turbines (IWT) in Ostrander Point, one of North America’s most important migratory routes for birds and home to endangered species.
The battle pits residents and environmental groups, like Nature Canada, against Gilead Power Corporation and the Government.
But what is the problem? Aren’t wind turbines GREEN? Why would environmental groups be in direct opposition to a green energy project? Conversely, with such a small project and such opposition, why hasn’t Gilead just walked away? The reason? The hidden stakes are much bigger than they might first appear.
Part of the problem is the location: Ostrander Point, Prince Edward County. Sometimes called the New Niagara on the Lake, the ‘County’ has grown in popularity in recent years. An island 3 hours east of Toronto; it’s home to over 35 wineries, organic farms,
the world famous Sandbanks Provincial Park, a National Wildlife Reserve and Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory, which attracts birders from around the world. Ostrander Point and the County, it turns out, are homes to endangered species and are directly in
one of the most important migratory routes for birds in North America.
Unfortunately, Gilead has much bigger plans than just 9 IWT. If Gilead wins this fight, they plan to build another 90 Industrial Wind Turbines across the County.
Little Old Ladies with Sticks
Okay, they aren’t holding sticks but… holding bake sales, tea parties, selling t-shirts and anything else they can do, this mighty band of opposition, the ‘Turtle Defenders’ – after the endangered Blanding’s Turtle whose home sits directly in the path of the planned
IWT construction – includes some spit fiery seniors! So far they’ve raised over $193,000 to fight against the construction of the turbines. (Clearly, the public supports them.) It’s both a sad and empowering sight. Little old ladies up in arms and not backing down,
sitting behind their lone (but determined!) lawyer, Eric Gillespie, a specialist in environmental law. The Gilead Corporation, on the other hand, is flanked by a team of high priced lawyers, including government lawyers paid for with tax payer dollars. David
Changing Perceptions on Industrial Wind Turbines
IWTs were originally heralded as the future of green energy. Around the world though, as evidence mounts that the benefits have been seriously overstated, views on IWTs are changing and opposition towards them is quickly growing. From Denmark and the UK to Canada, both local citizens and scientists are protesting the development of IWT projects; sighting evidence related to noise, health, community destruction, the environment, property devaluation, etc.
Killing Endangered Species
With over 370 species of birds (including many at risk species) migrating through the County, it’s considered one of the finest birding areas in Ontario. Together with killing birds and bats, the construction and operation of IWTs in the area would also
undoubtedly kill an endangered species, the Blanding’s Turtle. Gilead’s defence, which includes speculative mitigating measures, seems to be little more than an acceptance that the birds, bats and turtles will be a kind of collateral damage.
Pollinators in Peril
Bats and bees are also susceptible to IWTs. At a time when bats across Canada have been dying in unprecedented numbers (from a fast spreading fungus), and bee populations around the world have been plummeting, an increasing death toll from IWTs could spell even more trouble.
Disregarding an International Treaty
The Monarch butterfly has one of its migratory paths directly through the County. Nonetheless, the government has been supporting IWT development in the area; this despite an international treaty between Canada, the US and Mexico to protect the Monarch and their habitats.
Wolfe Island, Ontario – A Sad Lesson
Wolfe Island is a poignant example of IWT development gone wrong. After construction on the island, in just 6 months 602 birds and 1,270 bats were killed by the turbines. Together with the environmental impact, housing prices along the waterfront
Lessons to be Learned South of the Border
In Hawaii, the rusting skeletons of scores of wind turbines line the coast. Hawaii has 6 abandoned wind farms. These include just a few of the 14,000 wind turbines estimated to be abandoned across the US. This number is likely functionally much higher, as many are switched to a mode in which the blades turn just to keep oil moving through the parts but no electricity is being produced.
Environmentalists are amongst the most vociferous critics of IWTs and it’s not hard to see why. Wind turbines are estimated to kill between 75,000 and 275,000 birds across the US alone every year, that’s not including bats, insects and other species affected by
the construction and operation of the turbines.
In Altamont Pass, California, no one noticed until it was too late that a wind turbine farm was being built in a major migratory path for birds. The National Audubon Society called it ‘probably the worst site ever chosen for a wind energy project’. An estimated 10,000 birds including golden eagles, burrowing owls, hawks and falcons were being shredded each year in the massive turbine blades, together with thousands of bats, until outraged conservationists sued America’s ‘deadliest’ wind farm.
Does Canada need to make the same mistake?
Do Industrial Wind Turbines make economic sense?
Mounting evidence around the world is showing that IWTs don’t make economic sense. Research in Britain has shown that IWTs have much shorter life spans than originally projected, only 10-15 years. When they’ve finished their life span, there is also no
legislation in place requiring developers to dismantle them, leaving the hefty price tag to dispose of the dangerous rusting wind turbines to land owners and the government.
The United States Pulls Wind Development Subsidies
Between 2009 and 2013, in the US, federal revenues lost about $14 billion to wind. Subsidies to wind development were pulled off the table in the United States in 2013.
Sweden Bans Industrial Wind Turbines in Migratory Routes
Last year, Sweden ruled that IWTs cannot be built in migratory routes for birds. No exceptions. No appeals. End of discussion. After all, it’s only logical that IWTs should not be built in migratory routes.
Green initiatives have been a step in the right direction but, understandably, not every step will always be the right one. Since the government implemented the programs and initiatives, they can also equally amend and improve them. It would be impressive if the
government acknowledged that new evidence from around the world shows that Industrial Wind Turbines should be forbidden in migratory routes. If Canada isn’t going to make this progressive move, then Ontario should set the bar!
Kathleen Wynne has stated that she would not force IWTs on communities that do not want them. Unfortunately, she’s been silent on the Ostrander Point debate. This would be the perfect opportunity for Wynne and other government officials to step in and voice their support for the environment, endangered species, communities and the economy.
The Final Battle
Companies in Canada seem to be hurrying to catch the ‘wind rush’, an almost free-forall of generous tax breaks helping to make companies rich quick. The government is backing the Ostrander Point project, despite the fact that their own environmental
tribunal originally ruled against it. Gilead and the government appealed and the verdict was over-turned – mainly on technical issues.
Now, the final showdown is taking place in Ontario’s highest court to protect the endangered Blanding’s Turtle and one Ontario’s most precious migratory routes for birds. Who will win? Gilead Power Corporation? Or a band of turtles, birds, bats and insects protected by the Turtle Defenders?
Want to go to the hearing?
December 8 and 9 – beginning at 10:30am
Appeal Court of Ontario, Rm 2, Osgoode Hall, adjacent to Toronto City Hall.
Want to be heard?
Call your local councillor and let them know that you oppose the construction of IWTs in migratory routes and where endangered species will be killed.
Interested in Signing the Save Ostrander Point Petition?
Original PDF here: IWT versus Endangered Species