Wolfe Island

The Wolfe Island project consists of 86 turbines spread over the western portion of Wolfe Island. The project has been controversial from the beginning and telling a complete history is beyond my means. For this discussion the most important thing to remember is that Wolfe Island is right at the mouth of the St. Lawrence river, and thus is a major (as in globally significant) stopover and corridor for migrating birds. It also has a large population of raptors and other birds some of which are not common, especially in the winter. It is listed by Environment Canada as an IBA – Important Bird Area – and as such any development on it gets their highest scrutiny. That’s the theory, anyway.

A major problem is who ends up enforcing the environmental mandates. Note that all the large Ontario wind projects come in just under 200mw of capacity. Kincardine is 199.7, Prince is 189.0, the Melancthon’s are 199.5, the Kingsbridge’s would have been 198.3. Wolfe Island’s is 86 turbines times 2.3mw each equals 197.8mw. Just one more turbine and the total would go over the magic 200 mark. What is so special about 200? I think that’s when the federal full EA becomes mandatory. That limit applies to other energy projects, i.e. hydro. Below that limit the environmental reviews are primarily Ontario’s responsibility, with the Feds doing just a screening (if that). Anyone who thinks these projects are optimally sized for physical or economic reasons as opposed to political reasons is in serious denial. And the developers have been richly rewarded by Ontario’s largely-non-existent regulatory stance.

All projects of this size (gt 2mw) must go through what they call the “Environmental Assessment Process”. The way its written, it sounds like they will end up doing an Environmental Assessment. Not so, and I think the misleading wording is intentional. The “Process” has a set of triggers that, if not met, lets the developer slide into a less restrictive “Environmental Review”, which is reviewed by the province, with the federal government doing just a “screening”. So far, not one of the 19 eligible projects in Ontario has triggered a full Environmental Assessment, even though their were public requests for 17 of them. The Ontario government simply refuses to do them.

For Wolfe Island, there’s been a series of Environmental Reviews etc and a casual reading of them would lead one to think that the developer and the government will be doing everything necessary to protect the birds from harm. But a close reading and some history will quickly destroy any illusions that the government or the developer cares anything about the birds. I go into far more details on my Wind Farm Realities web site, as well as on my WI Birds and WI History posts.

Here’s a series of links to reference materials regarding Wolfe Island and the project there.

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