A Free-Market Energy Blog

Lake Erie Wind Turbines? (Part 2: Environmental Issues)

By Sherri Lange -- October 19, 2016

“Overwhelming evidence has been formally brought forward to the OPSB concerning possible and inevitable damage to the fragile ecosystems of Lake Erie. This ‘incubator’ project is intended to spawn more like projects, up to, we hear, 1,700 industrial machines in this one Lake or any of the Great Lakes.”

Members of the Great Lakes Wind Truth group for years have pointed to the fact that there are tens of millions of migrating birds and bats, possibly billions, that would be seriously impacted by even the six-to-nine industrial wind turbines at Cleveland. The Hawk Migration Association of North America and Rick Unger, past president and current advisor, of the Lake Erie Charter Boat Association, also expressed concerns to the OPSB.

Additionally, quoted in the joint letter of 2014, is a statement about

staggering environmental damages. From illegal bird death to radioactive waste, wind energy poses serious environmental risks that the wind lobby would prefer you never know about. This makes it easier for them when arguing for more subsidies tax credits, mandates, and government supports.

Highlights of additional concerns sent to the DOE follow below.

CO2 Rationale?

The myth that industrial wind complexes will benefit the environment and even “save the planet,” is rooted in a series of misrepresentations, not the least of which centres around the possible reduction of CO2.

CO2 only represents a minute fraction of GHGs, and indeed is not a pollutant, and has been vilified and demonized with abandon, in order to provide high level emotional status to the fight for the proliferation of industrial wind.  However, we will nonetheless point out that world wide, not a single coal-fired plant has been closed due to the manufacture and spread of industrial wind, and the conversation about CO2 abatement has been notoriously not in the developers’ favor.

So far, Germany has spent hundreds of billions on renewables, only to discover energy chaos, loss of manufacturing bases due to the high cost of power, and the ever elusive CO2 mission, well, as one says: unobtainable, immoveable, because you always need backup. Germany is refitting and building coal fired again, at a fast rate. In 2013 Germany’s carbon emissions rose 1.8 percent.

As one notes, it is not surprising that the energy portfolio in Germany is now referenced as “a marketing slogan, not a coherent policy.”

Industrial Wind: Not Clean

Much has already been written about the dangers of polluting 20 percent of the world’s remaining fresh water reserves.

The fact is that wind turbines are manufactured, transported, maintained, and sometimes, rarely, decommissioned, all using fossil fuels. An average 2.5 MW turbine can contain upwards of 600 gallons of oil and lubricants, which leaks and has to be replenished. Maintenance includes debugging the blades and cleaning the shaft or column which has streaking of oil and lubricants; there are vivid images of helicopter assisted cleaning available on You Tube.

Lack of cleaning can reduce efficiency by 30%. Please remember that decommissioning is rarely achieved, and we can imagine that offshore the costs would be prohibitive. There are now “mountains of industrial eco junk” accruing: carbon blades cannot be recycled, and only recently are some attempts being made to recover materials. In FRESH WATER, we would have these end of life carbon blades, non recyclable, towers of various resin coatings and steel frames, underwater supports degrading over time, and the rare earth minerals, highly toxic, in the magnets of the turbine. Who will retrieve and recover all of these materials, toxics, so they do not end up in water supplies?  There is absolutely NOTHING ecologically friendly about an industrial wind turbine. It is designed for one thing: profits.

(An article on chemical safety and turbines (2015) in Wind Power Engineering, addresses the need for MSDS (materials safety data sheets) to be available at all times at wind turbine sites, and indicates that “Even though wind turbines don’t use combustion to generate electricity, and therefore don’t produce air emissions, there are still risks of toxic or hazardous materials in lubricating and hydraulic oils, and insulating fluids (our emphasis). Turbine components, such as blades, rotors, and compressors, also need upkeep and cleaning, and while many non-hazardous, biodegradable cleaners exist, that’s no guarantee they are used on every turbine.”

The article continues to express that additional chemical hazards are implicit during construction and maintenance. How would a spill be mitigated off shore? How would containment be provided for regular maintenance of the turbines?)

Other Hazards

Additional costly environmental hazards for this offshore fresh water proposal would be:

  • Restrictions to boaters, especially in high winds;
  • Anchoring activities, will dislocate toxic elements and stir the drinking water for millions, and endanger aquatic life;
  • Infra and Low Frequency Noise (ILFN), which does not dissipate or devolve quickly over water, and in cases will be amplified, affecting residents along the shores and inland; shadow flicker will be problematic to boaters;
  • Risk for nighttime boaters;
  • Risk of contamination from cable excavation;
  • Effects to marine life of construction and electromagnetic fields; and
  • A final legacy after a short run of maybe 15 to 20 years (the lifespan is not 25 years before mechanical failure sets in, but 10-15) of eco junk, left to rot in the Lake, an embarrassing testament to lack of constraint and forethought.

Ecosystem Destruction: Migration and Wolfe Island

Overwhelming evidence has been formally brought forward to the OPSB concerning possible and inevitable damage to the fragile ecosystems of Lake Erie. This “incubator” project (once referred to by Ms. Kaptur as a possible “Saudi Arabia” of wind), intends to spawn more like projects, up to, we hear, 1,700 industrial machines in this one lake.

This must never happen. We reject the application of a single turbine in Lake Erie, or any of the Great Lakes.

If one requires a vivid example of a failed Lakeside (Ontario) project (which may as well be IN the Lake), please reference Wolfe Island, 86 turbines that continue to chop and devour birds and bats, despite warnings at the outset that this would prove an environmental disaster. We must remember that the mortality, even though reported to be “unacceptable and disastrous,” was counted as ever by the developer or his paid consultant, in this case, Stantec.

We now know that under reporting is the norm; and some say the cover-up of the massacre is now nearly 99 percent. We now extrapolate mortality figures based on those from Europe, per turbine and per similar project, and it is very safe to say that in the US alone, between 13 and 31 MILLION birds and bats are destroyed due to industrial wind: these are not the numbers provided by USFWS, a mere 585,000.  (As noted by wildlife and wind energy analyst, Jim Wiegand, “The Wolf Island mortality studies used search areas of only 60 and 50 meters. These studies missed most of the carcasses.”) 

The Atlantic Flyway, offers a resplendent display of Nature’s Rush Hour, according to Leigh Patterson. (More than 12 million, likely many more tens or as some say, hundreds of millions, use this flyway, for one.) Writing in Migration Week, she and others explain how some species may use several flyways, such as the Mississippi Flyway as well as the Atlantic, and that the variables are as mysterious as yearly changes in diet and weather.

This miracle of flight will inevitably be impacted upon by anseriformes (ducks, swans, geese and relatives), songbirds, raptors, bats alike. This high octane movement of life above our heads invites tourism dollars, and spiritual regeneration for all. 90% of Canadian birds do not winter there, and the flux of the Great Lakes becomes a stop over or pass through or even residence for sustenance and breeding.

Many species of anseriformes winter out on the Lakes about 4 km. As noted by Dr. Scott Petrie, of Long Point Waterfowl fame, we should not be considering industrial wind in or near any of these breeding areas.  The Ontario MNR (Ministry of Natural Resources) Significant Wildlife Habitat Technical Guide indicates that any development must:

protect the area of the site and existing significant (migratory stopover) sites should be protected in their entirety and not reduced in area….Great Lakes shorelines (especially Lake Erie and Lake Ontario) are very important.

We consider this project given its proximity to the shore, to fall into this call for protection.

Fatal Attraction: Bats

It is easy to assume that industrial wind turbines out in Erie by about 7 miles or less, will actually become stopovers.  Female bats are now known to search for roosting sites after a birth cycle, and bats in general are attracted to the insects that accumulate on the blades and nacelles.  This is as is now well known, a fatal attraction.

It is no longer White Nose Syndrome that is the number one killer of bats: it is industrial wind turbines. We cannot emphasize enough that the turbines proposed offshore at Cleveland, will undoubtedly attract bats. (Dr Paul Kerlinger’s report on behalf of LEEDCo, indicates that there is “nil” chance of the Indiana Bat migrating to the possible roosting at the turbine sites.)

The 2013 report predates more recent information that females do indeed see turbines as possible new roosting sites. He also points to “best practices” that he encourages the developer to employ with respect to lighting on the turbines. We respectfully submit that Drs. Curry and Kerlinger are employees of the wind industry and that the reporting is paid for by the industry, and of course becomes industry favorable material.

It is also Dr. Kerlinger who filed a report in Toronto Canada for the now famous and ignoble demonstration turbine, the CNE turbine. In that study, there were merely two dead birds, and the study was terminated just before migration began. This was noted by the officers of FLAP, Fatal Light Attraction Plan, of Toronto.)

Dr. Kerlinger does admit:

That bats migrate across Lake Erie was confirmed in a study that McGuire et al. (2012, cited by Pelletier et al. 2013) conducted at Long Point. They placed radio transmitters on 30 Silverhaired Bats in August-September. Migration was found to occur in two waves, in late August and in mid September, and stopover duration was only 1-2 days. Departure directions from Long Point were recorded for 24 of the individuals under study. Eight (30%) departed along the lakeshore in a westerly direction, four (20%) along the lakeshore in an easterly direction, and 12 (50%) over the lake, where the minimum crossing distance was 38 km (23.6 miles). (Emphasis added)

It is safe to assume that bats of any variety may wish to feed on the insects trapped by light and safety features at the turbines in Lake Erie. (Please also note that several projects near the Internationally recognized hiber-nacula of Montagne Saint Pierre, for example, near the Belgian Dutch border, were turned down due to bat conservation considerations.)

Bats reproduce slowly, most species one pup per year. World wide declines are reported in similar fashion: turbines, White Nose Syndrome, and loss of habitat. It is little known that bats are responsible for 90% of the reseeding of the rainforests, and it is quite well known that bats devour about 600-1000 insects per hour per animal, thus providing Nature’s perfect insecticide without chemicals.

The dollar value of bats to agriculture has been estimated in North America to be around 3.7 BILLION per year.  (It is again estimated that some losses to bat colonies in the USA are upwards of 90% of significant roosts, and that even two of these losses if not realized, could have contributed to removing 600,000 pounds of insects per night!)

Reports of dangerously high impacts to bat populations are now accumulating. In 2004, a six-week study at 44 turbine Mountaineer Wind Farm estimated that at least 1,364 bats were killed, between 1,364 and 1,980, and that it was noted that 70% were scavenged within 24 hours. In an article, Battered by Harsh Winds, Must Bats Pay the Price for Wind Energy? Merlin D Tuttle succinctly asks if the cost to wildlife can ever be worth the carnage.

The $60,000 thermal imaging cameras set up at the Mountaineer Wind Energy Center in West Virginia showed bats approaching the electricity-producing turbines almost like curious kittens enchanted by a tumbling ball of yarn. When the blades were spinning at their standard 17 revolutions per minute (rpm), the results could be and often were fatal. Yet bats sometimes chased harmlessly after the tips of slow – moving blades as though investigating the inexplicable devices that proved neither prey nor bat. Some bats actually landed on stationary blades, suggesting curiosity about potential roosts or sources of insects. 

Mr. Tuttle concludes: An energy source simply cannot be “green” if it kills thousands upon thousands (or millions) of bats.”

Threatened or endangered species for OHIO include: all counties, Indiana Bat, Northern Long-Eared Bat, the Kirtland’s Warbler, the Piping Plover, to name a few. The Indiana Bat is federally listed as endangered, the Eastern Small Footed Bat is federally listed as of special concern. The Indiana Bat is also endangered in Ohio.

Icebreaker or Ecology?

In summary: industrial wind does not work, does not produce reliable electricity. It always requires backup. Lots of backup. It itself is a child of fossil fuels, and requires fossil fuels to maintain its existence. It contains toxic substances, and as noted, is often maintained with noxious and dangerous chemicals, lubricants.

It is impossible to know about rare earth elements from China, and industrial wind’s dirty little secrets, and still think, “green” and useful.  There are over 8,000 parts to a turbine, and some of these are steel, cast iron, concrete, resins, lubricants, and magnets made from neodymium and dysprosium.

The sad fact is that we have been sold a bill of goods, that this relatively primitive mechanism, a highly subsidized industrial wind turbine, is nothing in the end but a dangerous chimera, and in the final end, will prove to be a vast and well publicized display of organized shame.

Please immediately stop any and all funding, require the developer(s) to provide audits of how they have managed DOE funds, provide those reports directly to the public in real time, and stop advancing this LEEDCo/Fred Olsen Lake Erie disaster immediately.

We do not subscribe to the break a few eggs to make an omelette theory of the environment. This Lake Erie breaking of eggs will be a forever breaking, with nothing at all to gain, ever. We have an opportunity to prevent a disaster from happening. Please use all of your authority to end this attempt to pollute and industrialize Lake Erie.


Note: Comments are being solicited by the US Department of Energy regarding the newly minted Fred. Olsen Renewables Icebreaker/Windpower Project (formerly LEEDCo project, Icebreaker). Comments are due on or before October 21 and should be labelled File EA 2045, Attention Roak Parker ProjectIcebreaker@ee.doe.gov. Part I of this post was published yesterday.


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