5/13/11 Hello Windmills, Bye Bye Birdie, Dirty Shame: What happened to those woods when the turbine came? AND Not THAT kind of green, the other kind: Buying the right to kill, harm and harass endangered species AND Another problem for wind developers to laugh about AND Say no to turbines and see how fast the word NIMBY comes at you
Short-eared owls disappearing from island
May 13, 2011
By Paul Schliesmann
The short-eared owl, listed as a species of special concern in Canada, has all but disappeared from the west end of Wolfe Island.
A noted Kingston-area birder says the decline has everything to do with the construction and startup of wind turbines on that part of the island two years ago.
"They're definitely avoiding the area," said Kurt Hennige, who has been watching and documenting the short-eared populations on Wolfe Island for more than 25 years.
The owls specifically congregated on the northwest corner of the island because of an abundance of their favourite food — meadow voles. As well as being a favourite hunting ground, short-eareds also winter there.
"Now we see that where the most windmills are, we hardly see any short-eareds," said Hennige.
"We weren't studying this specific to windmills … the area where they were common, the short-eared owls were displaced from the heavy area where the windmills are. They've moved to the east end.
"That's a threatened species."
Two years ago, an 86-turbine wind farm opened on the western half of Wolfe Island, built on leased properties.
The facility is owned and operated by Calgary-based TransAlta, which purchased it from Canadian Hydro Developers.
Hennige said that part of the island, along with Amherst Island, has consistently offered one of the most important hunting and nesting grounds available to short-eareds in all of North America.
"I have seen up to 30 birds feeding in a small area," he said. "They're very social birds. Up to 30 or 40 can roost in one area."
Hennige is affiliated with the Kingston Field Naturalists, a volunteer organization that has been documenting bird sightings in the region for decades.
Two years ago, he began assisting Kristen Keyes, a student from McGill University, with her thesis on short-eared owls.
The absence of the birds on Wolfe Island became instantly apparent to Hennige.
He insists, however, that the disappearance of the owls should come as no surprise. For several years, birder friends in Mexico have documented similar findings where turbines have been installed in large numbers.
"They learned years ago it's not the migrating birds that get killed, it's the residential birds that can no longer use the feeding area," said Hennige.
A report released by TransAlta in January showed about 22 raptors were killed by wind turbines on Wolfe Island from July 1, 2009, to June 30, 2010.
The company pledged to find ways to reduce the raptor death count.
In the same time period, an estimated 1,151 birds were killed along with 1,720 bats.
Hennige said that from his recent observations, it appears all 10 of the resident red-tailed hawks were victims.
Despite all of the information gathered over the years by the Kingston Field Naturalists, he said, none of it was used by the companies that sited the wind turbines.
Hennige suspects that the staggered alignment of the 80-metre towers, with their 93-metre diameter blades, has contributed to the large hawk kill numbers.
"If the whole population is gone, to me that's pretty bad. Maybe with good placement of the windmills it could have been avoided," he said.
Hennige believes it's possible for industry and scientists to work together to avoid similar environmental degradation.
He holds up his own special project, reclaiming habitat in the Napanee area for the endangered loggerhead shrike, as a case in point.
When it was learned that solar electricity company SunEdison wanted to install a massive panel project in that area, Hennige and Wildlife Preservation Canada pushed the company to consider the shrikes' needs.
By avoiding a certain area of the property critical to its survival, the shrike appears to be thriving — growing from four pairs last year to seven this year.
"You can have solar farms and you can have shrikes," said Hennige. "It took a bit to get them convinced. We had to explain why they should not build on the front of the property.
"They often buy more land than they're using anyway."
Hennige said it will take further study to determine if the east end of Wolfe Island can sustain the short-eared owl population.
His concern is that Amherst Island, the other popular spot for the owls in this area, could also be threatened by a proposed wind farm there.
The eastern end of Lake Ontario, encompassing Kingston and the islands, is considered a globally significant migratory route.
"If you put a lot of windmills there, where can they go?" he asked.
"We have sensitive habitat that needs protecting. I have no issue with green technology, but it needs to be scientifically done."
IN SHEFFIELD, WIND OPPONENTS UPSET ABOUT EROSION
May 13, 2011 by Chris Braithwaite of
Calling it “an obscene abuse of our environment,” Vermonters for a Clean Environment says erosion at the Sheffield wind energy development is threatening sensitive streams and their fish populations.
The group has posted dozens of photos, taken at the site over the past nine days, which it says document violations of a storm water runoff permit obtained by the developer, First Wind, from the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).
The state says First Wind has not violated its permit. The developer is in the middle of constructing 16 turbines in Sheffield.
First Wind spokesman John Lamontagne says that when state inspectors visited the site Friday, May 6, “they were happy with the site and said it was in compliance with the permit.”
David Mears, the commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation, said he had a quick briefing Monday morning with department officials who inspected the site on Friday. He said the section of the site where gravel roads had been completed to wind turbine sites that had been cleared and leveled “appears to be fully compliant with the permit.”
In a second part of the site, Mears said, “they’re still doing forestry work, cutting the trees.”
That portion is subject to a lower level of storm water runoff regulation, Mears said, “the same as any forestry project.”
There are some deficiencies in that area, Mears said. “But none appeared to have resulted in any harm to the waters of the state.”
Some areas which posed a risk to streams were pointed out to a First Wind representative, who agreed to correct them, Mears said.
“We’ll continue to monitor and evaluate the site,” the commissioner added. But at the moment, he said, DEC plans no further action.
Annette Smith, the executive director of Vermonters for a Clean Environment said the photos show “hundreds and hundreds” of feet of roads that were never stabilized when the site was shut down last fall.
“We’re talking about multiple failures here,” she added. “The sediment is running off into trout streams.”
Paul Brouha of Sutton, a member of the Ridge Protectors, a group that opposed the wind project and fought the storm water runoff permit in the state Environmental Court, accused Mears of splitting hairs by distinguishing between First Wind’s finished site work and the logging portion of its operation.
Ridge Protectors is currently appealing the permit to the state Supreme Court.
“What we’re after here is natural resource protection,” Brouha said. “I would say there’s been a large amount of erosion, and water has carried that soil into the streams, especially the tributaries of Calendar Brook.”
“We’ve got resource damage,” Brouha continued, “and more will occur if the site is not stabilized. That sediment flows into the Calendar Brook Wildlife Management Area.”
Calendar Brook is a native brook trout fishery, Brouha said. “It will be affected by that sediment. Fish and vertebrate habitat will be reduced in quality and quantity.”
Smith said First Wind should be subject to the sort of fine imposed on Jay Peak in 2007, after heavy rains washed pollution into streams from a golf course the resort was building. After considerable negotiation with the state, Jay Peak agreed to a fine of $105,000.
ONTARIO GREEN PROJECT MAY KILL ENDANGERED SPECIES
READ FULL STORY AT THE SOURCE: CBC News, www.cbc.ca
May 13 2011
By Mike Crawley
What the company is applying for is a permit that would allow it to “kill, harm and harass” two endangered species — Blanding’s turtle and the whippoorwill.
A Toronto-based wind power company is proposing to build a green energy project on the shores of Lake Ontario, but building the project could threaten two endangered species.
Gilead Resources would have the legal right to kill the two species — if the province approves the new proposal.
What the company is applying for is a permit that would allow it to “kill, harm and harass” two endangered species — Blanding’s turtle and the whippoorwill.
Gilead wants to build a wind farm on the shoreline in Prince Edward County. But the location is designated an “important bird area” and the endangered turtle nests there, as well.
Anne Bell of Nature Ontario says her group supports green energy but only so far. “We have to keep good projects out of bad locations,” said Bell, “and this is exactly what we’ve got here.”
The final decision rests with Natural Resources Minister Linda Jeffrey who says that “for the most part we can find ways to mitigate around endangered species reasonably, so that the species continues, and continues to thrive.”
But Myrna Wood, a resident in nearby Picton says she “just cannot believe the government will do this. None of us here can, we’re all astounded.”
But Jeffery counters that the “ministry has to find a balance between protection and allowing economic development — no matter what the species.”
In an email statement the company says it will do its best to mitigate the harm to the birds and turtles. It says it will create new nesting habitat and will build the project in winter, when the wildlife aren’t around.
CONSTANT NOISE OF OFFSHORE WIND FARMS MAY STRESS FISH
READ ENTIRE STORY AT SOURCE: New Scientist, www.newscientist.com
May 12, 2011 J
Sonar’s effect on marine mammals has been a hot-button topic for years, and recent research shows that loud sounds damage the balance organs of cephalopods.
But we also should worry about the potential effect of lower-level, constant noise on fish, Arthur Popper of the University of Maryland in College Park will warn the Acoustical Society of America at a meeting in Seattle, Washington, later this month.
Navy sonar, acoustic guns used in seismic exploration and pile driving can produce sound levels of 180 decibels in water. These sounds can seriously affect nearby marine animals. For instance, injuries or distress caused by such intense sounds have been blamed for the beaching of cetaceans. They can also drive whales from their feeding grounds. But the loud noises don’t last long, so uninjured individuals can swim away until they stop.
But what if they don’t stop? This is Popper’s concern: the constant lower levels of noise from shipping or offshore wind farms can increase background noise by 10 decibels over a very large area. Although this noise is less intense than sonar, Popper says that long-term exposure to this constant rumble stresses fish. Experiments have shown that exposure to recorded ship noise increases levels of the stress hormone cortisol in fish.
The constant din may have other repercussions. Another experiment showed that recorded ship noise blocked Lusitanian toadfish from hearing sounds produced by others of their species. The extra noise can also prevent fish from hearing natural sounds that alert them to predators or prey.
Imagine living near a busy highway to understand how a busy shipping lane or an offshore wind farm might affect fish. Like highway noise, low-level machinery noise can be relentless.
The effects have not been well studied, but Popper suspects they may be serious. “It’s very hard to do experiments in the lab,” he told New Scientist, because the laboratory environment itself stresses fish enough to obscure the effects of several decibels of noise. He’s giving his talk primarily to increase awareness, he says. “We need to be doing some very critical experiments to understand long-term effects on animals on the wild.”
[Also see: "Low-frequency sounds induce acoustic trauma in cephalopods" by Michel André, Marta Solé, Marc Lenoir, Mercè Durfort, Carme Quero, Alex Mas, Antoni Lombarte, Mike van der Schaar, Manel López-Bejar, Maria Morell, Serge Zaugg, and Ludwig Houégnigan, Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 2011, doi:10.1890/100124]
CONNECTICUT WIND PROSPECT DENIED
READ FULL STORY AT THE SOURCE: Citizen's Neews, www.mycitizensnews.com
May 12, 2011
by Laraine Weschler
NEW BRITAIN – After months of research and over $100,000 spent on legal fees and experts, the hard work has finally paid off for members of Save Prospect who fought to protect what they saw as their quality of life.
The Connecticut Siting Council voted 6-2 on May 12 to deny BNE Energy’s petition to build two 1.6 megawatt commercial wind turbines in Prospect.
Despite health and safety concerns from the project’s opponents, the decision turned on visual impacts.
The two, 463 foot turbines would be visible from 50 residences year-round and 248 residences seasonally.
“Given the mass of the turbine towers, the height of the turbine hubs, the height and rotation of the blades and lack of an effective means of visual mitigation, the Council finds a substantial adverse visual impact sufficient to deny the proposed project,” wrote the council in its opinion.
After the vote, opponents of the Wind Prospect project in the audience applauded.
“We’re very happy,” said Fred Bonyai, who lives near the proposed site. “I didn’t believe it would ever happen because I thought it was a done deal. I guess the council listened to us and the made the right decision.”
Tim Rielly, President of Save Prospect Corp. said the council did the right thing.
“It’s nice to see a small group of people who fight for their cause against big government and end up winning,” Reilly said.
He said he looked forward to being able to hang out in his back yard and leave the windows open at night without having to worry about the noise and sight of the turbines.
“To us now, the American dream is still alive,” Reilly said.
Rich Sargeant, who lives about 1,700 feet away from the site on Radio Tower Road, said it was astonishing to see a simulation of how big the turbines would look from his front door.
“We’re not looking to stop wind energy in Connecticut. We just want to have it done correctly so people aren’t adversely affected,” Sargeant said.
Even though the council sited visual impact as the main reason they denied the petition, Reilly said he still believes that noise could have a health impact.
Sargeant agreed that the noise was still a big concern. He said he didn’t believe BNE’s noise studies were very accurate, especially at night, when the wind blows the hardest and people are trying to sleep.
Sargeant said the site tour and listening to residents at public hearings in Prospect had a big impact on the council’s decision.
Representatives from BNE said they were disappointed with the council’s decision.
“It’s troubling that the Siting Council would shoot down a wind project because people don’t want to see them off in the distance,” said BNE Chairman Paul Corey.
BNE President and CEO Gregory Zupkus said the council’s decision was a major blow to the future of wind energy in Connecticut.
“This is a real bad message sent to renewable energy,” Zupkus said.
Even though the Prospect project was denied, Zupkus said he is still optimistic that his company’s two other petitions for wind projects in Colebrook will be accepted.
“There’s no denying that wind energy is the right energy source for the future. The question just becomes is whether Connecticut can accept it and make it a part of Connecticut’s future.”
After over 250 fact findings in favor of the project, Zupkus said it was a shame it was rejected because people don’t want to look at the turbines.
Zupkus, who lives in Prospect, said many of his neighbors supported the project.
“This is just a small NIMBY anti-wind crowd that disagree with it,” Zupkus said.
BNE representatives said they didn’t want to comment on whether they would appeal the case.
Several members of the council expressed their understanding of the complexities of the issue and difficulty in making a decision.
They said their decision only applied to the unique characteristics of the Prospect proposal.
“I don’t want this to be an end of wind turbine projects in Connecticut,” said council member Daniel Lynch.
Brian Golembiewski, designee of the Department of Environmental Protection, said a smaller scale project could still be viable on the site.
One of two dissenting voters, Ken Braffman, designee of Department of Public Utility Control, said the proposal is in accordance with the law as it is now, even if it’s not how the council wished it would be.
The other dissenting vote, Council Chair Robert Stein said that the issues and resident’s concerns have to be balance against legal requirements.
“I feel this project should be approved,” he said.
He said he looked at whom and what the Council was trying to protect, how serious the issues were, how many people would be impacted, how frequently, and what mitigation was possible.
In the case of ice throw, Stein said that although it was a potentially serious threat, mitigation made the likelihood of it hurting anyone highly improbable.
The council found that the project would not produce any air emissions or greenhouse gas, have no adverse impact on water quality, would not disturb wetlands and would not adversely impact birds. In the council’s opinion, shadow flicker is a potential annoyance rather than a health threat and could be mitigated using greenery and blinds.
The council’s opinion did state that noise is a serious concern, but that the project would meet Connecticut DEP allowable limits. However, the council noted that some health professionals are challenging the adequacy of state regulations and that mitigation of noise issues would be difficult and costly.
After brushing aside most of the issues brought up in the case, they only one left was visual impact. The council found that the turbines would be visible from many homes and attract attention because of their movement. Although BNE said it would plant trees along the property line to help shield the sight of the turbines from their neighbors, the council found such mitigation would not be effective.
Stein said that even though some people had described the turbines’ size as monstrous, visual impact does not affect health or safety.
On the other side, council member Philip Ashton said he was very worried about the impact of the turbines on surrounding neighborhoods. He said he was very much aware of the precedent the council would be setting in the Wind Prospect decision.
“We all felt an obligation to do it right the first time,” Ashton said.
Council Vice-Chair Colin Tait recused himself from the vote as per BNE’s request because he is involved in a group opposed to the wind projects in Colebrook. He said he had been impartial, but wanted to avoid any appearance of impropriety.
Another request for Council Chair Robert Stein to abstain because he came into the process late, replacing former Chair Daniel Caruso, was denied. Stein said he’d done his homework, read all the transcripts, and did not have any pre-judge position.