Governments have a growing interest in “cumulative effects” approaches to build a more comprehensive regional picture of industrial development. Such approaches aim to consider a project’s environmental, social, and economic impacts against a broad range of activities and industries that have already occurred—or could occur—in an area.
We spoke with Charlie Palmer, Practice Leader of Environmental Impact Assessment at Hemmera about “Unpacking the Cumulative Effects Challenge” and why the upcoming panel of the same name is so important.
*This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
What are the cumulative effects of wind energy in Canada?
Charlie Palmer: To truly understand the cumulative effects of Canadian wind energy, we need to understand the effects of a range of activities and how they interact with the impacts of wind energy production. This includes looking at the effects of transmission lines on birds or the impacts of buildings on birds, and how these factors interact cumulatively with similar types of effects from wind energy. We also need to look at the cumulative strain on social services from concurrent construction projects – cumulative impact is not just about biological issues. This is an important conversation to have at the conference because we need a venue that fosters an open dialogue free from current business limitations and emotional strains.
What can people expect from your panel?
Charlie Palmer: I’m an environmental impact assessment practitioner, so I will bring a theoretical and practical approach to managing cumulative effects in wind energy. However, the panel will bring together diverse perspectives from a wind energy developer, regulators, decision makers, and a biologist. Attendees will hear a holistic discussion about how we can approach the cumulative effects challenge. It’s tackling this overall approach in a meaningful way that is important.
What is the wind energy industry doing right when it comes to responsible development?
Charlie Palmer: We have a green image because we are a non-greenhouse gas emitting industry, but that brings with it added responsibility. We still have an impact on our environment. What I think we are doing right is openly and honestly acknowledging those effects, and we are doing our best to address them.
What more can the wind energy industry do to ensure responsible practices?
Charlie Palmer: We need to continue pushing. We are doing a good job, but we can do better by encouraging other industries to meet the standards that we have set to achieve. We also need to continually evolve and innovate. For example, by funding research that looks into the types of effects we currently see. At a practical level, this type of research can guide operating projects and give them new and innovative ways to address challenges. There’s a lot of research going on, but we can do more by encouraging operational projects to be open to experimental techniques.
Let’s introduce our readers to Hemmera. What can you tell us about your company?
Charlie Palmer: We are an environmental consultancy. We help the wind energy sector and other industries to work responsibly by assisting our clients to find a balance in fiscal and environmental solutions. The key here is the interplay between fiscal and environmental responsibility.
What are you most looking forward to at the conference?
Charlie Palmer: We’re a continent-wide industry, so it is a great chance for us to connect with people, companies, and clients. It’s an opportunity to learn about the opportunities and challenges the industry is facing. Most of all, it’s fun!
You can find Charlie on-stage during the “Unpacking the Cumulative Effects Challenge” panel on October 25, 11:00 am to 12:00 pm.
Charlie Palmer is an impact assessment and ecology professional with 20 years of experience in multiple jurisdictions. Charlie has strengths in environmental impact assessment under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act 2012, and related provincial and federal legislation and policies. His particular focus is the interplay between regulatory and legislative needs and community and ecological issues. He specializes in biological mitigation development and assessments, species at risk, cumulative effects assessments and operational monitoring.
Charlie works on wind farm, solar and run of river hydroelectricity developments in British Columbia, Alberta, New Brunswick and the Northwest Territories at all phases of development from feasibility, approvals and construction through to operations. Charlie is also a frequent advisor to industry and governments on best practices for EIA policy and compliance and wind energy EIA.
Looking for more wind energy insights?
The Annual Canadian Wind Energy Conference & Exhibition is the meeting point for all members of the wind energy industry – top business executives, technical experts, decision and policy makers, and government representatives – to come together and address the key issues facing the industry today. Join us October 23-25, 2018 at the BMO Centre in Calgary, Alberta.