Wind Farm on Wolfe Island is killing large numbers of birds and bats

Stantec Consulting Inc. has just released a very important study on post construction impact of a wind farm with 86 2.3 megawatt wind turbines on Wolfe Island near Kingston, Ontario on birds and bats. The data on which the assessment was made was collected between July 1 and December 31, 2009, or the “reporting period.”

In short, the result of the monitoring reveals shockingly high numbers of fatalities of both birds and bats. Here are the facts stated in the report: over 600 birds were killed, equivalent to 6.99 birds per turbine for the “reporting period”, and 1278 bats, or 14.7 per turbine. The reporting period was six months and did not include the massive pulse of birds in the spring migration or wintering raptors. The casualties included 8 Bobolinks, 28 Tree Swallows, 7 Purple Martins, 3 Red-tailed Hawks, 6 Turkey Vultures, 2 American Kestrels and a Merlin, among other species. Bat fatalities included 54 Hoary Bats, 44 Eastern Red Bats and 36 Silver-haired Bats. It is interesting and very troubling to note the selective impact these turbines are inflicting on certain groups of animals, such as the aerial insectivorous birds like swallows and martins which are in serious population declines, raptors, and migratory bats.

The Stantec report converted the fatality rate into birds or bats per megawatt per reporting period, rather than the more standard birds or bats than per turbine per year as is traditionally used. This reporting technique, that I would call spin, diminishes the shockingly high impact of these structures. As turbines get bigger and more efficient at generating energy, our tolerance for their impact increases, according to this flawed logic.

Many proponents of wind power, including CANWEA, quote studies that cite two birds per turbine per year as the impact of turbines. Indeed it was birds and bats per turbine per year that was the standard metric used for reporting impact. If we see through the spin of the report in using birds/bats per megawatt per “reporting period”, there is no denying the impact of this project is too high and beyond tolerance.

In the meantime, Prince Edward County, including the globally significant Prince Edward County South Shore Important Bird Area, Amherst Island, Wolf Island (both Important Bird Areas), offshore locations near the Duck Islands, and many areas along Lake Erie and elsewhere in the Country have either existing or proposed wind farms. We hope that this report, and the stir it will cause, will wake up those agencies charged with protecting our wildlife to put brakes on the chaotic expansion of wind farms into places that they clearly should avoid. Wind energy is a good idea. Let’s “keep good ideas in good places.” In the wrong places – Important Bird Areas and migration corridors for example – wind energy is a bad idea and our wildlife, which does not have a voice, continues to pay the price for our lack of foresight and greed. I fear that the Stantec report will be the first of many that will chronicle this sad legacy that we are creating.

Photo credit:
Merlin by Marty Burke