Energy

Environmental Considerations

The current interest in wind energy comes from the need to develop clean, renewable energy systems that are reliable and able to supplement hydroelectricity.

High-performance wind turbines

Wind turbine technology has improved considerably in recent years. Today’s wind turbines perform much better, thereby reducing energy costs. They are taller, meaning that they make better use of the wind resource and encounter fewer obstacles. The broader surfaces of their longer blades, made of lighter, more resistant materials, capture more wind.

Quieter…

As a result of all these improvements, modern wind turbines make less mechanical noise and are much quieter than their predecessors. The noise level is less than that produced by a car engine, and does not, for example, overpower a conversation. In most cases, the sound of the wind is louder than the noise generated by the turbines.

Although there are no noise-related standards for wind turbines, the Ministère de l’Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques requires promoters to assess the noise-related impacts of their projects. It recommends that the noise should be 45 decibels or lower during the day, and 40 decibels or lower at night – the equivalent of the noise level in a quiet street. In addition, the certificates of authorization issued so far by the Government for wind farms require soundscape surveillance and monitoring programs to ensure that project proponents comply with these requirements.

Landscape integration

The wind turbine towers installed following the first call for bids are 80 metres high. With the addition of the blades, the total height of these turbines, when the blades lie along the tower axis, is nearly 120 metres. Turbines are usually installed in groups to form wind farms, hence the importance of ensuring that they are properly integrated into the landscape.

To obtain a certificate of authorization from the Ministère de l’Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques, promoters of projects on public and private land alike must also ensure that their wind farms comply with the land use plan and by-laws of the RCMs and local municipalities.

On public land, the Ministère de l’Énergie et des Ressources naturelles has taken a number of steps to make sure wind farms are harmonized with their environment. For example, it has introduced planning and supervisory tools (in French) as well as the Program to allocate public land for wind farm creation, which allows it to manage wind farm facilities properly.

Harmonization of use

Since the whole of a territory is subject to the exercise of a right or use, it is essential, when creating a wind farm, to consider all aspects of current land use in the area, including:

  • access to public land maintained for other uses;
  • panoramic roads and tourist circuits;
  • leisure facilities – ski centres, golf courses;
  • rights granted by lease, servitude, right-of-way and other agreements;
  • wildlife and plant habitats;
  • protection and conservation areas;
  • wildlife zones, etc.

Promoters may therefore be asked to produce studies showing how the turbines will be integrated into the host landscape, analyzing landscape sensitivity and proposing measures to mitigate any negative impacts.

Wildlife

Research has shown that the risk to bird and bat populations is lower when a wind farm is built on a site that has been selected using stringent criteria. The Québec Government has therefore introduced measures designed to minimize the constraints placed on natural environments and wildlife by wind energy projects.

To structure and guide wildlife impact assessments, the Québec Government has produced a number of protocols describing the steps to be taken to produce bird and bat inventories. Among other things, the protocols present the best times for surveying the animals, and the methods that should be used.

Décembre 2013

Janvier 2008

In addition, the Ministère de l’Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques will only issue a certificate of authorization if the promoter has submitted a bird and bat monitoring program with its application. The program, covering a three-year period after commissioning of the wind farm, must assess the bird and bat mortality rate potentially associated with the wind turbines, and the use of the wind farm by birds, in particular during migratory periods.