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 with Rob Miskosky

Wind Turbine Troubles Looming?

Recent trips into southern Alberta have opened my eyes to an ugly reality—wind generated power. Alberta has about 900 wind turbines currently generating electricity in southern Alberta and with the province phasing out coal-generated electricity, the number of operating wind turbines in Alberta is going to increase significantly over the next few years. The government plans to have 30 percent of Alberta’s power supply coming from renewable energy (wind, solar and hydro) by 2030.

“Will more wind farms lead to a loss of access for hunting?”
Much has been written about wind turbines and their effects on birds and bats, as studies have shown that wind turbines can kill a lot of them. In Alberta, it is suggested that wind turbines kill about 8200 bats every year, with that number set to increase as the number of wind turbines increases. A study in California also showed that “raptors experienced high mortality rates, especially when compared to their low-reproductive rates and population sizes.” As well, migrating songbirds are also susceptible to the monstrous structures that can stand more than 80 metres high with turning blades that can reach out more than 50 metres with blade tip speeds reaching nearly 300 kilometres per hour.
There has been very little research conducted on the effects of wind turbines on other wildlife such as mule deer and elk; however, some studies suggest that the noise, construction and human activity associated with wind turbines can displace wildlife, especially wildlife that typically avoids buildings, roads and power lines, like Alberta’s endangered greater sage grouse.
But what about the other impacts of wind turbines? With each structure built, there comes habitat loss, degradation, and fragmentation, as each turbine needs infrastructure, which includes roads, miles of high-voltage powerlines, collection lines etc., to carry the electricity to users.
And, put simply, they’re ugly; no amount of lipstick is going to dress up these pigs.
People I talked to in Pincher Creek certainly didn’t have any love for the massive structures and in fact, many wished they weren’t the blight on the landscape they are.
Are wind farms going to affect hunters? Well, short of displacing certain wildlife, there could suddenly become an issue of access where wind farms are operating. In Ontario, this has already happened.
Engie Canada, the operator of four wind farms in Ontario that include 160 turbines on 87 properties, has recently asked landowners who lease land for Engie’s wind turbines to restrict hunting on their properties. Engie’s reasoning is that it is for the safety of their employees working at or near their turbines.
This isn’t sitting too well with the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH), or Delta Waterfowl, who said in a letter to Engie, “…your suggestion that landowners should ban all hunting is a threat to our organizations’ mission and membership and, as such, we take it very seriously. The letter and the tone it conveys seems to be reactionary and without due consideration of effects.”
And, “If this is the posture that your company continues to articulate, we will have to share that with our members, the outdoor media and others who are not currently aware that wind development on their lands or in their communities means a future prohibition on hunting.”
With 38 wind energy installations in Alberta, there are a combined 901 standing wind turbines, mostly on private lands. Given that 75 percent of the White Area in Alberta is privately owned, and with many more wind farms slated for construction in Alberta, the potential for lost access for hunting, fishing and trapping could become considerable. ■

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