Proposed Alberta Solar Farm Deemed too Dangerous for Birds

Elemental Energy (EE) — the same company planning a wind project in the Northern Valley — just lost their bid for a massive solar farm in an ecologically sensitive bird area in the High River region. The Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC), the regulatory body with the final say on utility projects, concluded:

…the potential for the project to result in high bird mortalities, and the impacts of the project on the Frank Lake IBA and the social and environmental values that it represents are unacceptable.

AUC, The Calgary Sun, April 21, 2023
An endangered whooping crane foraging for food

That was welcome news to Wind Concerns, who is fighting a similar situation north of Elk Point where Elemental Energy wants to plant 15 massive industrial wind turbines. “But this is also a designated ‘Wildlife Sensitivity Zone’ according to Alberta Fish and Wildlife,” says Wind Concerns Editor-in-Chief, Mark Mallett. “Not only are the Bald Eagle, Sharp-tailed Grouse, and other species who are ‘at risk’ in this area, but we just received data1 showing that the Endangered Whooping Crane makes the Northern Valley its ‘summer grounds’ here.” That should also put a dagger through this project, says Mallett, because the Species at Risk Act clearly states:

…no person shall destroy any part of the critical habitat of any listed endangered species or of any listed threatened species.

Seciton 58 (1),

Since there are less than 600 Whooping Cranes in existence, according to John Conkin of the Canadian Wildlife Service, the endangered species cannot afford many deaths. Environment Canada and Climate Change notes that, “The inherent capacity of Whooping Cranes to rebound demographically is low due to delayed sexual maturity (age 3–4 years) and a low reproductive rate (two eggs in the annual nesting attempt, with only one chick typically fledging).”2

The loss of even a few Whooping Cranes could result in a population-level effect…

Letter: “Revival of the Poorly-sited Merricourt Wind Energy Project in North Dakota”, November 17, 2014

The proliferation of wind farms in key migratory paths like the Northern Valley are not only wiping out large migratory birds that collide with turbine blades — 1.17 million bird strikes annually in the United States alone, according to three studies3 — but it’s also the destruction of key habitat.

There are more than 10,000 wind turbines scattered throughout the Whooping Cranes’ migratory pathway. We now know that too many of these turbines are eliminating important migratory stopover habitat for this Endangered species.

Joel Merriman, Director of the Bird-Smart Wind Energy Campaign at American Bird Conservancy, April 1, 2021; ESA

MLA for the region, Hon. David Hanson, has also jumped into the fray to defend the river valley region.

You can’t have it both ways — you can’t have the province declare this a “Wildlife Sensitivity Zone” and a recognized migratory path for an Endangered species — and then allow a project as potentially damaging as this.

Hon. David Hanson, April 4, 2023, Public Meeting held by Wind Concerns, Elk Point, AB

“What I thought was interesting about the AUC’s decision on High River was the recognition of the ‘social’ impacts of the cancelled solar project,” said Mallett. “Because the social impact of wind farms on regions in the global experience is that they are devastating, not only to human health but to property values as well. But we believe this wind project will be killed on the endangered issue alone. One really has to wonder if Elemental Energy has it in for birds, because they couldn’t have picked two more sensitive sanctuaries than they did.”

In an email response to The Calgary Sun, Daniel Eaton of Elemental Energy stated that the Vancouver-based company…

…is in the business of building renewable energy projects that benefit our environment, our communities, our partners, and our future generations.

The Calgary Sun, April 21, 2023

“Elemental Energy’s choice of locations for their solar and wind projects suggest that either they are completely incompetent — or they don’t care about the environment and our communities,” says Mallett. “You don’t ‘propose’ a wind project in a populated rural acreage area, much less a Wildlife Sensitivity Zone. You’re hurting people. You’re hurting wildlife. You’re killing birds. We’ve learned a lot from the Ontario wind experiment, and it’s a colossal failure on people and the environment. Europe has already started to move away from such so-called ‘renewable energies.'”

At Wind Concerns’ second public meeting on April 20, 2023, a former Ontario resident stood up and addressed the large crowd.

Everything you are hearing is true — the adverse health effects: headaches, dizziness, nausea… I experienced them. I also own 10 mares that I breed, and a year after the turbines went in, all of them went sterile.

— Terry

Even committed “climate change” environmentalists like Michael Shellenberger are backing away from wind energy.

Wind turbines have also emerged as one of the greatest human threats to many species of large, threatened and high-conservation value birds, after habitat loss from agriculture. Wind energy threatens golden eagles, bald eagles…

Michael Shellenberger, “Why Wind Turbines Threaten Endangered Species With Extinction”, June 26, 2019, Forbes

At least thirty-five families have come forward so far to contribute to a legal fund to stop the wind project. “There are more than birds at stake here,” said Mallett. “These are wind turbines built for offshore applications — and Elemental Energy wants to erect these, not only on top of Whooping Crane grounds but next to dozens and dozens of acreages and farms. We have faith that the AUC will make the right decision here as well, should the process even get that far.”

  1. cf. BREAKING: Endangered Cranes Habitate Elk Point Region[]
  2. cf.[]
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Wind Concerns is a collaboration of citizens of the Lakeland Alberta region against proposed wind turbine projects.

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