Keith Stelling – 4.0 – Industrial wind turbines are a new, cumulative, limiting factor
4.0 Industrial wind turbines are a new, cumulative, limiting factor
Accompanying this loss of habitat is the unprecedented menace of industrial wind turbines to passerine (grassland) species which the MNR does not appear to be taking into account. Post
construction studies indicate that (along with raptors and bats) passerines are exceptionally vulnerable to collision mortality from the turbine blades, especially during migration and (COSEWIC 2012) and unfavourable weather conditions.
A foreseeable cumulative effect will result as increasingly more wind turbines are built without regard to critical habitats across the province. The cumulative effect of multiple wind developments in Ontario and the Eastern USA must now be considered as an additional limiting factor for these migratory birds—one that is unlikely to be reversed given the rate at which wind projects are being approved by the Ontario government.
This additional limiting factor must be carefully weighed in MNR decisions permitting wind energy developments. Biologists have urged that “efforts should also be made to assess the cumulative
impacts of small-scale local effects on the different geographically defined avian populations”. (Desholm and Kahlert 2005)
Albert Manville, Senior Wildlife Biologist, Division of Migratory Bird Management at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also warns: “The numbers of Bird Species of Conservation Concern killed by wind turbines is increasing, and that’s troubling. These species are already declining, in some cases rather
precipitously. The use of wind power must be balanced by the equally important goal of protecting birds and bats. To accomplish that goal, we need to be smarter about where we place wind power facilities.” (Manville 2005)
Ontario Environmental Commissioner, Gord Miller, cautions: “Wind power project sites are evaluated and approved on an individual basis, with no regard for the potential cumulative effects on
birds or bats from other nearby wind power facilities or other potential sources of bird and bat mortality”. . . . “I am concerned that the current guidelines do not go far enough to ensure that wind power development is compatible with Ontarians’ objective of protecting wildlife. Given the importance of selecting sites that minimize the harm to birds and bats, it just makes sense to avoid building wind energy projects in these species’ most ecologically sensitive locations. . . .The Ministry
of Natural Resources should rectify these shortcomings”.(Sarnia Observer, Wednesday, October 10, 2012).
The MNR must remember the proximity of Amherst Island to Wolfe Island. Each of the 86 industrial wind turbines on Wolfe Island killed an average of 13.4 birds during the first year of operation. This is equivalent to 1152.4 birds for the development during the first year; over the 20 year life of the
project one may expect many more mortalities. The Bobolink and the Tree Swallow were among the species already experiencing population declines killed at Wolfe Island.
A new study just published in the United States has estimated that around 573,000 birds were killed by wind turbines in 2012 (including 83,000 birds of prey), an increase of 30 per cent on a previous estimate by the US fish and Wildlife Service in 2009. Bats are even worse hit, says author Dr. K. Shawn Smallwood, and probably top 888,000 killed per year.12 “Clearly this has serious implications for the renewable energy industry, which bases much of its investment and publicity on the safety and
environmental sustainability of the machines. Smallwood also believes his figures are underestimated, owing to the incompleteness of reports of bird and bat deaths from different
An article by Clive Hambler, lecturer in biological and human sciences at Oxford University, warns: “A recent study in Germany by the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research showed
that bats killed by German turbines may have come from places 1,000 or more miles away. This would suggest that German turbines — which an earlier study claims kill more than
200,000 bats a year — may be depressing populations across the entire northeastern portion of Europe. Some studies in the US have put the death toll as high as 70 bats per installed
megawatt per year: with 40,000 MW of turbines currently installed in the US and Canada.
This would give an annual death toll of up to three million.
12 Smallwood, K Shawn. 2013. Comparing bird and bat fatality-rate estimates among North American wind-energy projects. Wildlife Society Bulletin 37: 19-33. (13 Bird Watch News Archive, 21 July, 2013).
Why is the public not more aware of this carnage? First, because the wind industry (with the shameful complicity of some ornithological organizations) has gone to great trouble to cover
it up — to the extent of burying the corpses of victims. Second, because the ongoing obsession with climate change means that many environmentalists are turning a blind eye to the ecological costs of renewable energy. What they clearly don’t appreciate — for they know next to nothing about biology — is that most of the species they claim are threatened
by ‘climate change’ have already survived 10 to 20 ice ages, and sea-level rises far more dramatic than any we have experienced in recent millennia or expect in the next few centuries. Climate change won’t drive those species to extinction; well-meaning
environmentalists might”. (Hambler 2013)
4.1 The ecosystem disturbance during construction has not been considered
The disturbance to the local ecosystem caused by wind turbines is long term (20 years+), continuous, and in all probability, irreversible. It is not difficult to imagine the impairment of
a sensitive ecosystem during the construction phase. Even for a modest sized development of only 46 turbines, the invasion of 13,018 gravel trucks accompanied by heavy excavation equipment will disturb a much greater area than the project site and fragment the habitat during the construction of up to 46 km of access roads. Heavy component transports, cranes, and concrete mixers will follow.
“During wind farm construction, pile driving will add significantly to existing human noise in the area; at European wind farm sites, some species tend to move as far as 20km away during construction”. (Mooney, 2012)
Many kilometres of excavations for connector cables will sever ecological links. The work goes on for the better part of a year. By that time, the habitat has lost most of the characteristics that made it a refuge capable of supporting threatened wildlife. 15
The consequences of “displacement due to disturbance, barrier effects and habitat loss. . . may be direct mortality or more subtle changes to condition and breeding success”. (Drewitt and Langston, 2006).
Neighbours around turbine developments soon observe the disappearance of all but the most common species. Avoidance behaviour has been demonstrated by Desholm and Kahlert (2005) who
found that the diurnal percentage of flocks entering a wind farm area decreased significantly (by a factor 4.5) from pre-construction to initial operation.
Rees (2012) observed large-scale displacement, with fewer swans and geese returning to areas after wind farms were installed. Loesch et al. (2012) has observed a negative median displacement of 21% for breeding duck densities near wind energy developments.
According to Dr. Scott Petrie, Executive Director of Long Point Waterfowl and Adjunct Professor in Biology at the University of Western Ontario: “When you place a turbine in or very close to critical habitats, and birds subsequently avoid those
areas, it is tantamount to habitat loss.”14
4.2 Bird and bat abundance declines at wind turbine sites
Biologists are worried about all these things: habitat fragmentation, habitat loss, wildlife disturbance,
abandonment and life history disruption.
Brennan has pointed out that while “ecologists and wildlife managers have been concerned about the negative impacts of wind energy developments or wind farms on migratory birds such as
passerines and raptors, as well as bats . . . widespread fragmentation [also] results, not only from (14 From an address given in Grand Bend, Ontario, 7 February, 2012) placement of the wind turbine towers, but also from the infrastructure of roads needed to construct and service them and the transmission lines required to access the continental electrical power grid.”
(Brennan et al, 2009)
“The associated infrastructure required to support an array of turbines—such as roads and transmission lines—represents an even larger potential threat to wildlife than the turbines
themselves because such infrastructure can result in extensive habitat fragmentation and can provide avenues for invasion by exotic species”. (Kuvlevsky et al, 2010) Abundance declines can become more pronounced with time. Disruption of ecological links results in habitat abandonment by some species. The loss of population vigour and overall density resulting from reduced survival or reduced breeding productivity is a particular concern for declining populations. (Barrios and Rodriguez 2004; Stewart et al. 2004; Kingsley and Whittam 2005; Manville
2005; Desholm 2006; Everaert and Kuijken 2007, Kunz et al. 2007).
4.3 Noise from wind turbines is detrimental to survival of wildlife
Scientists are concerned about the effect of wind turbine noise on wildlife. In October, 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service warned: “Noise can affect both the sending and receiving of important acoustic signalling and sounds. This also can cause behavioural modifications in certain species of birds and bats such as decreased foraging and mating success and overall avoidance of noisy areas. The inaudible frequencies of sound
may also have negative impacts to wildlife. Given the mounting evidence regarding the negative impacts of noise – specifically low frequency levels of noise such as those created by wind turbines on birds, bats and other wildlife, it is important to take precautionary measures to ensure that noise impacts at wind facilities are thoroughly investigated prior to development”. (USFWS 2011)
“Declines in densities of woodland and grassland bird species have been shown to occur at noise thresholds between 45 and 48 dB, respectively; while the most sensitive woodland and grassland
species showed declines between 35 and 43 dB, respectively. Songbirds specifically appear to be sensitive to very low sound levels equivalent to those in a library reading room (~30 dBA)”. (Foreman and Alexander 1998)
“At a distance 300 ft from the blades, 45-50 dBA were detected; at 2,000 ft, 40 dBA; and at 1 mi, 30-35 dBA (Kaliski 2009). Given this knowledge, it is possible that effects to sensitive species may be occurring at ≥ 1 mile from the center of a wind facility at periods of peak sound production”. (Dooling and Popper 2007)
“The effect of ambient noise on communication distance and an animal’s ability to detect calls is another concern. For birds, this can mean 1) behavioral and/or physiological effects, 2) damage to hearing from acoustic over-exposure, and 3) masking of communication signals and other biologically relevant sounds. . . . This masking effect of turbine blades is of concern and should be considered as part of the cumulative impacts analysis of a wind facility on wildlife. It must be recognized that
noise in the frequency region of avian vocalizations will be most effective in masking these vocalizations. . . Masking could prove detrimental to the health and survival of wildlife”. (Dooling and Popper 2007)15
“Impacts of noise could thus be putting species at risk by impairing signalling and listening capabilities necessary for successful communication and survival”. (Barber et al. 2010) Bayne et al. (2008) found that areas near noiseless energy facilities had a total passerine density 1.5 times greater
than areas near noise-producing energy facilities. 15 “At a distance 300 ft from the blades, 45-50 dBA were detected; at 2,000 ft, 40 dBA; and at 1 mi, 30-35 dBA (Kaliski 2009).
Given this knowledge, it is possible that effects to sensitive species may be occurring at ≥ 1 mile from the center of a wind facility at periods of peak sound production”. (Dooling and Popper 2007) 18 Francis et al. (2009) showed that noise alone reduced nesting species richness and led to a different composition of avian communities. Forman et al. (2002) reported that “several species of grassland bird (especially the Bobolink and Eastern Meadowlark) decreased in numbers and breeding in patches as the amount of traffic on roadways increased”.16