Wind farms have pros and cons; But experts largely complimentary at public meeting;

The Belleville Intelligencer: BRUCE BELL - January 23, 2009

PICTON: A biologist with Environment Canada says there is little evidence to support the theory windmills pose a danger to migratory birds in Ontario.

During a public information meeting on windmills here Wednesday evening, Dr. Lyle Friesen told a crowd of 150 that data collected from one of the earliest North American wind farm developments in Altamont Pass, California, is not relevant to newer developments, including those proposed for the north shore of Lake Ontario.

"The wind farm at Altamont was built in the late 1970s and early 1980s and the technology is quite different today," he said. "New turbines are taller, there is no perch for raptors to sit and the blades now move much slower than the original turbines, so they don't pose near the risk to birds anymore."

Friesen said a pair of studies over a two-year period at a development at Port Burwell, in south-western Ontario found only three dead raptors, or birds of prey.

"They were good news studies, that's for sure, because there are estimated to be 500,000 raptors passing through that area every fall and in the two studies, 13,000 were observed moving through the turbines, so we were concerned there might be a much higher mortality rate," he said. "There seems to be a crucial difference between turbines and communications towers because in fact, guy wires kill more birds than the tower does."

The audience also heard from Dr. Volker Thompsen, of the World Council for Renewable Energy, and Orville Walsh of the Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County.

Thompsen, who has recently completed a home in the 1,000 Islands region, told the audience Canadians must find alternative energy sources -- and wind is a proven alternative to fossil fuels.

"This is about change and that is always very difficult, but I do believe the planet is truly in a bad state," the former St. Lawrence College president said. "I'm an optimist that we can regain our health and balance, but we have burned and slashed the southern part of our country. Studies show that hydro, wind and solar are the best sources and it's unfortunate that Ontario seems to be embracing nuclear power because it cannot be mixed with renewable energy."

There are currently three applications for wind farm developments in Prince Edward County and a number in the early planning stages. Although Thompsen stopped short of promoting wind farms in the municipality, he pointed to the success of wind energy developments in Europe, particularly those in Denmark and Germany.

"It's a $15-billion industry in Denmark and it's a way of living and thinking there," he said. "Our Canadian development is driven by policy and I think you should go to Germany and Denmark to learn from these people."

However, Walsh didn't completely agree with Thompsen and said development in those countries has slowed in recent years.

"In Denmark, for instance, there has been problems with some of the installations of the newer and larger turbines and the installation has slowed down," he said. "Future wind parks now include settlements for property value losses and many in Europe are moving to offshore wind (farms) because of resistance to onshore developments."

Walsh did not say his group is opposed to using turbines as a source of renewable energy but said proper policies must be in place.

"The Ontario government has provided no guidelines for turbine placement and it's up to municipalities to create their own guidelines,' he said. "There needs to be a limit on how many and where they are built."

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