Developer argues that wind projects save birds from pollution

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A Canadian developer is turning the issue of birds and wind turbines on its head by suggesting that large-scale wind projects should receive credit for saving the lives of birds. In an environmental screening report for a 5.4 MW wind project, Ontario's Sky Generation argues that wind turbines could reduce bird mortality by displacing toxic emissions from the province's coal fired generation. The Ontario Medical Association estimates that smog is responsible for the premature deaths of 1900 people each year in the province. Assuming the estimated 200 million birds that live in or pass through Ontario each year would be at least as susceptible as humans, the report argues, then 34,200 birds die every year from NOx emissions, the principal component of smog. "Since 15% of NOx emissions come from power generation, 5130 bird deaths each year could be avoided by replacing coal-fired power plants with wind turbines." The report also argues that the indirect impact of emissions on birds should also be considered. Coal plants emit mercury, which accumulates in fish, the principal food of loons and other birds. "This has caused a reduction in breeding success in loons as far away as Kejimkujik National Park in Nova Scotia. The release of sulphur dioxide from burning of coal causes acid rain. The impact of acid rain on fish populations in lakes is well known, and has a dramatic impact on bird populations, as well as many other species." Sky Generation installed the first of three 1.8 MW turbines planned for the project late last year.

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