Thursday, July 28, 2011

Why I Can't Fully Support Wind Farms in Ontario

Of course we need alternative energy sources. We cannot rely on fossil fuels much longer and I am certainly opposed to the cavalier approach most oil and gas companies take when it comes to the environment. And I don't buy their greenwashing either.

However, as environmentalists we would be wise to really question and examine all of our alternatives. In the province of Ontario wind energy has been promoted, above all other energy alternatives on the table, as the way to go. The problem is the Ontario government has been rubber-stamping projects willy-nilly, with very little concern for the surrounding environment or wildlife. The Ontario government repeatedly refuses to listen to biologists, naturalists and other members of the scientific community, many of whom merely want to point out the folly of some of the proposed locations, not denounce the industry as a whole.

And I don't even want to delve into the issue of who stands to profit or gain from all of this. That's a murky and mucky issue. Murkier and muckier than any swamp, bog or fen. No, there's even more to this preference for wind energy than meets the eye, and it's not all about folks who are simply concerned about the well-being of our planet. This has more to do with the pocketbooks of a small group of investors than it does with saving Planet Earth.

Let's not be naive. As with coal, gas, and oil, there are going to be wind barons, people who stand to get very rich from the wind energy industry. Let's not forget that this IS an industry, not a philanthropic endeavour led by a group of well-meaning, good-intentioned people. This is going to be about profits.

The Ontario government too hastily adopted wind as THE solution to our energy woes. We needed to explore and weigh other options - solar, for one. And what about geothermal energy? At the very least, the government should have been taking a more informed and enlightened approach when choosing wind farm locations. Not on migratory routes surely!

In any case, all this to preface the most recent update about TransAlta's Wolfe Island wind farm. This 86-turbine wind farm is a death trap for thousands of birds and bats. It should never have been built where it was built. The scientific and environmental communities were silenced and held at bay.

As a resident of the Great Lakes I am so deeply disturbed about the rampant, unchecked and unexamined proliferation of wind farms along our shores. And we have yet to really see how these turbines will perform. During this most recent heat wave, wind energy came up short, producing very little energy to offset our consumption when we needed it the most. A reliable source of energy for our future? Hardly.

Ontarians should all be very angry. Great Lakers should be very angry. No more wind farms without environmental impact studies first!

There's an election coming. Demand that!

Please visit the Nature Canada blog now to read the latest about TransAlta's Wolfe Island Wind Farm and the decimation of our bird populations.

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