Windfarm Wasteland

Birds and Bat strikes

Since this was written more evidence has come to light  of the damage caused by wind turbine blades to birds, and also bats, which are very highly protected. This page contains links to a selection of the relevant articles

In each case a paragraph or two from the relevant article is quoted, or perhaps a summary and a hyperlink given to access the full article.

Contents:

  1. Evidence of bird and bat strikes by wind turbines
  2. Legal aspects
  3. Research

 

1 Evidence of bird and bat damage

Transcription from the BBC programme Nature 13 Jan 2003, discussing the research  which shows how the rare Skota duck has particular problems with nearshore windfarms.

Extract / summary

There are currently wind turbine proposals right the way out throughout the Baltic from Lithuania  and  Latvia ,Estonia all the way through Poland ,through German waters   and then in the north sea ,in , in the Netherlands ,Belgium off  France and of course round British waters, everywhere  where common skotas occur  they are now being threatened by wind farm developments. 
The first phase in the development of electricity generation from offshore wind farms In Britain dubbed round 1,.began with  proposals for 20 farms at various locations around the coast. Responsibility for leasing portions of the seabed for their development lies with the crown estate which owns the seabed out to the 12 nautical mile territorial limit

Caroline Heaps is the marine environmental policy manager for the crown estate and I asked her to explain the criteria for assessing lease applications

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 RENEWABLE ENERGY INDUSTRY ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS

An excellent survey and review of the research done on the impact of wind turbines on wildlife and particularly birds, in this case in Australia

Extract

RENEWABLE ENERGY INDUSTRY ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS

By Andrew Chapman - 15/11/03

Karl Mallon of the Australian Wind Energy Association, on 11 November 2003, suggests that wind farm bird kills are minimal and because birds are killed in other ways we shouldn’t be overly concerned about wind turbine kills.  Bird kills at wind farms are in fact significant and this is particularly relevant because wind power companies market themselves as providing “green energy”.  This image, of their own creation and naively fostered by others, should not exempt them from the normal level of environmental scrutiny and compliance applied to industry.  Company boards, investors and consumers alike want to be sure that their expectations of social and environmental responsibility are met and not just by ticking boxes on paper.  It is therefore important that the impact of wind farms on the environment, particularly wildlife, be conveyed so people have the opportunity to make informed social and environmentally conscious investment decisions.

Andrew is a Consulting Engineer with a private practice who has held senior positions in leading Australian engineering and environmental consultancies.   He has provided engineering and environmental services to major corporations in Japan, South East Asia and throughout Australia.  He served on the Victorian Government’s Conservation Advisory Committee and over 11 years Chaired or was member of panels appointed to conduct hearings under the Victorian Government’s Planning and Environment and Environment Effects Acts 

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For an example of a detailed survey, carried out in the United States  look at http://www.west-inc.com/reports/nine_canyon_monitoring_final.pdf

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Windpower Monthly, the internal journal of the wind industry is concerned about bat strikes. This is from its  website

 

Bat kills a sudden and unexpected problem

Bat kills are emerging as a major and unexpected problem at wind turbine sites. The issue was brought to a head last month after the death of what scientists describe as an "alarming" and "surprising" number of bats in a single large wind farm over a period of weeks.

Deaths of bats at wind power stations is not new, but the recent incident, reported in full in the October issue of Windpower Monthly, is among the worst recorded. The wind industry is being called upon to accept responsibility for the emerging problem and to co-operate fully in dealing with it. "Right now, the picture that’s emerging is that bats populations are more at risk from wind turbines than birds," says one of the many scientists studying the kills.

Tension between wildlife authorities and the wind industry over the issue has been exacerbated by a further clash over a wind power project under construction in the same region. State wildlife officials are warning that the threatened bald eagle, golden eagles and endangered bat species are at risk from the project. The initial response from the project developer to continue with construction has unnerved the authorities. Concern is mounting among officials that the wind industry may not willing to co-operate on the siting of wind turbines where they will have least impact on animal and bird habitat.

The same wind project development company has been involved in both the large projects now under environmental suspicion. The wind turbine supplier is also the same. Of deep concern to wildlife officials is the lack of comprehensive information from the wind industry on the bat kills and lack of co-operation on the details of environmental assessment work. This contrasts with their experience of close co-operation with the wind industry in the region to date.

So far, no endangered species have been identified among the hundreds of dead bats collected. Until an endangered or threatened species is involved, wildlife authorities have no authority to intervene. They warn, however, that the killing, or "take," of endangered species is a criminal offence and it is the responsibility of project developers or owners to obtain "an incidental take permit or avoid take of any federally listed species." The concerned wildlife authority has wide-ranging legal powers to act against persons responsible for kills of endangered species.

Very little is known about most of the 1000 or so bat species that exist -- and almost nothing about their migratory habits and requirements. Scientists are baffled about what is causing the bats to be attracted into wind farms, though migration habits may have an important bearing on the problem. They say the wind industry has much to learn. "They talk about lighting the towers to prevent bird impacts, but the lights they're using may be more likely to attract bats," says one researcher.

The wind industry could help solve the puzzle by the timely release of relevant data, including numbers involved, genus and species involved, circumstances under which the animals are killed, time of night when the deaths occurred, age of the dead animals, and other relevant information. Money is also needed for research and analyses.

Despite the newly emerged tension between a section of the wind industry and wildlife officials and scientists, serious efforts are being made by the authorities for a constructive dialogue on the formation of guidelines to help developers site wind turbines to lessen the numbers of bird and bat kills.

For the full details of exactly what is happening where and who is involved -- including interviews with wind industry members, scientists and wildlife officials -- read our series of stories on this contentious issue in the current issue of Windpower Monthly.

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Environmentalists get tough


Legal action against Altamont bird kills


A US environmental group has filed a lawsuit in federal court against
the owners of some of the nation’s oldest wind farms, just as the projects were set to receive new operating permits.

  The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) filed suit against FPL Group Inc, parent company of FPL Energy, the largest wind developer in the US, and NEG Micon, a wind turbine   supplier in Denmark and FPLs partner in its Altamont Pass Wind Resource Center (WRC), in January.
The suit charges that the roughly 5400 wind turbines in Altamont Pass have killed up to 10,000 birds in the 20 years since they were first permitted by the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, earning it the reputation
as the most lethal project in North America. About 2100 of the Kenetech 100 kW turbines have been owned by FPL and NEG Micon since 1998. SeaWest owns a significant number   of additional turbines, but CBD says it is going after the biggest two companies first and will see how this lawsuit is resolved before moving ahead on further court action.
A SPECIAL CASE
CBD claims the entire array of WRC turbines kills more than 60 golden eagles, 300 red- tailed hawks and 270 western burrowing owls, among other raptors, each year. These and other species are protected by several state and federal wildlife agencies and by federal laws. Although CBD supports wind development, the centre’s Jeff Miller says the turbines in Altamont Pass are a special case.
The group filed the lawsuit, says Miller, because Alameda County’s East County Board of Zoning Adjustments approved in November new long term conditional use permits for 14 Altamont Pass wind farms. It was scheduled to approve 15 more at its mid-January meeting and four more later without requiring the project owners to come up with an environmental plan to stop the bird kills. CBD has also appealed pealed the zoning board’s decision to the County Board of Supervisors, which would have been the final step for permit approval.
Reacting to both CBD’s lawsuit and its appeal, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors put together an advisory committee made up of environmentalists, wind developers and county staff to draft a list of environmental conditions that would be put in place as the projects receive new conditional use permits.
The advisory committee was to report to the board of supervisors at its January 29 meeting, but getting to an agreement about environmental conditions for the current projects and for repowering could take several months longer.
Miller wants the wind turbine operators to implement measures to reduce bird mortality, such as shutting down the 12°/o of turbines that cause 80°/o of the bird deaths. In addition, he wants project owners to provide some compensation, such as conservation easements to help bird populations that are being depleted, even if the offsets protect habitat someplace else.
FPL says it is already doing what it can to prevent bird mortality and has been working with the California Energy Commission (CEC) and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, which oversees federal wildlife protection laws. “We’re concerned about bird collisions at Altamont,” says FPL’s Steve Stengel, who refuses to comment on pending litigation. “And, we’ve been doing things to mitigate the interaction.”
The mitigation includes removing some turbines in areas of potential risk, installation of nacelle screens to reduce the opportunity for birds to perch on turbines and a rodent control pi-program. “If we eliminate or reduce the number of prey on the ground, then the raptors won’t swoop in to feed on them,” Stengel says. But Miller says the rodent control program is not working and, depending on which expert weighs in on the issue, the program could be making the mortality problem even worse by killing other terrestrial non-target species, such as the kit fox.

MIKE O’BRYANT  Windpower Monthly USA

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Bird kills in the thousands stir opposition to wind turbines

Environmentalists seek to block permit renewals for California energy
farm

By Rone Tempest
Los Angeles Times
December 17, 2003

ALTAMONT PASS, Calif. - When the giant Altamont wind farm sprouted here
two decades ago, the only major objections were aesthetic. Local
residents didn't appreciate the forest of 7,000 ungainly wind towers
cluttering their view.

No one, apparently, thought about the birds.

Since the giant windmills began churning the air above the Altamont Pass
east of San Francisco Bay, an estimated 22,000 birds have died -
including hundreds of golden eagles, red-tailed hawks, kestrels and
other raptors - after flying into the spinning blades.

Now, some environmental groups that routinely supported wind power as a
clean, alternative source of electric power are opposing the renewal of
permits for the wind farm, the largest in the world in number of
turbines, until steps are taken to reduce the bird deaths.

"Renewing these permits without addressing the cumulative impacts of
wind energy on migratory birds, especially raptor species, will give a
black eye to wind power," said Michael Boyd, president of Californians
for Renewable Energy, a Santa Cruz-based organization that generally
supports energy sources such as wind power.

Joining in the effort is the Center for Biological Diversity, a national
nonprofit group known for its litigious approach to wildlife protection.


The organizations have asked the Alameda County Board of Supervisors to
reverse a recent decision by a local zoning board granting permit
renewals to some of the wind power operators. Quoting from recent
research for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the California
Energy Commission, they estimate that over the past 20 years 22,000
birds have died in the Altamont windmills, including 400 to 800 golden
eagles.

"The county did everyone a disservice by choosing to ignore the true
impacts of these turbines, which are the equivalent of a terrestrial
Exxon Valdez every year," said Jeff Miller, spokesman for the Center for
Biological Diversity.

The open country surrounding Altamont Pass is believed to contain one of
the largest populations of breeding pairs of golden eagles in the world.
In the fall, the eagles, as well as thousands of the more common
red-tailed hawks, use the pass as a route to their winter homes in
California's Central Valley.

There are 16 other major wind farms in the United States, but none comes
close to Altamont in the number of bird kills. In part, this is because
of the abundance of birds. On a recent morning in the Altamont area,
visitors counted more than 30 red-tailed hawks and several kestrels
perched in trees and on fence posts or soaring in the currents high
above the turbines.

The wind power industry, eager to expand, describes the Altamont
situation as an "anomaly" that has provided valuable lessons for other
wind farms, including those in Southern California's Tehachapi area and
the San Gorgonio Pass, which the industry claims are much safer for
birds.

For example, the new Foote Creek Rim wind farm near Arlington, Wyo., is
also in an area with heavy concentrations of golden eagles. Using data
about eagle flight patterns collected from Altamont, planners there were
able to space rows of turbines in a way that has avoided high numbers of
bird deaths.

A 2001 report commissioned by the National Wind Coordinating Committee,
an industry-funded advocacy group, contends that the controversy over
bird kills, particularly at Altamont, has "delayed and even
significantly contributed to blocking the development of some wind
plants in the U.S."

Researched by Wyoming-based Western EcoSystems Technology Inc., the
report contends that many more birds are killed annually in collisions
with vehicles (60 million), window panes (98 million) and communication
towers (4 million) than die nationwide in wind turbines (10,000 to
40,000).

Even the common household cat, wind power industry advocates argue, is
responsible for more bird deaths than turbines.

Paul Kerlinger, a New Jersey avian biologist who works regularly as an
industry consultant, contends that of all the main energy sources
excluding solar power, wind is the least threatening to bird life.

"When you turn on your lights you kill something, no matter what the
source of electricity," said Kerlinger.

Industry officials said they felt blindsided by the recent opposition at
Altamont.

"We felt that we were already way down the track in reducing avian
fatalities," said Steven P. Steinhour, vice president of Seawest, a San
Diego wind power company with holdings in Altamont. Steinhour, an avid
bird watcher who specializes in project development for Seawest, was
incensed by the comparison of Altamont to the Exxon Valdez oil spill
disaster off the coast of Alaska.

"It's estimated that half a million birds died because of Exxon Valdez,"
said Steinhour. "It would take 400 years to reach that number here."

The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council estimates that 250,000
seabirds and 250 bald eagles died in the spill.

The current flap over bird deaths came when the 20 permits held by the
companies began to expire this year and the companies were required to
go before a local zoning board for renewal. The board approved renewals
for 1,400 turbines.

Opponents have asked the board of supervisors to reverse those renewals
when the board meets early next year.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

 

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Wind farms threaten the red kite

Conservationists attack the Government's latest environment plans after rare bird's death

Mark Townsend
Sunday January 25, 2004

 

The Observer

At first, it was dismissed as another routine, if tragic, death. The dismembered body of one of Britain's rarest birds, the red kite, had been found on a remote hillside, its right wing efficiently severed.

Local enthusiasts, saddened by the loss of the bird they had christened Filled Heart, launched an investigation. Now their findings have triggered a rebellion among ornithologists which threatens to derail Tony Blair's attempts to tackle climate change. It could thwart a £1 billion investment in building wind farms across Britain.

The death of Filled Heart is also blamed for a series of impending lawsuits against planned wind turbines, which some believe could reduce bird populations to the extent that internationally recognised nesting sites lose their global importance.

Filled Heart's body was found close to a major Welsh wind farm. A detailed inspection by vets concluded its injuries were consistent with being slashed by a giant turbine blade.

The synopsis offered the first proof that Britain's army of birdwatchers had been dreading: endangered species were being shredded in the 'killer blades' of huge turbines that can travel at up to 300kph.

Now, a year after its death, Filled Heart has also precipitated an unprecedented spat among the green lobby. For conservationists, the red kite has become an unlikely martyr in the fight against wind farms. For the environmentalists who argue the loss of a few birds is a worthy sacrifice if it means reducing the impact of global warming, Filled Heart remains a powerful nemesis.

'It might have been only one bird, but because the red kite is such a rarity it has tended to polarise views and has raised real questions about the siting of turbines,' said Rowena Langston, research biologist for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

Wind farms proven potentially to affect birdlife may have to be sited elsewhere or abandoned altogether according to legal experts.

Evidence continues to emerge that thousands of the UK's most well-known birds could be killed in the 40-metre-long blades. Wind farms are currently planned for sites near the habitats of some of Britain's rarest birds, including golden eagles, as well as the red kite, of which there are 500 breeding pairs left. Pressure will mount this week when conservationists warn Ministers they are failing to take the threat seriously.

The story of how the death of a single red kite near Aberystwyth could dent the Government's high-profile pledge to provide 10 per cent of Britain's electricity by 2010 by the wind has stunned the industry.

Last week, its concern deepened when US wildlife experts launched a lawsuit against a San Francisco wind farm known to kill 5,500 birds a year. Now Welsh campaign ers, in a move to save the once-persecuted red kite, are preparing to follow with their own legal action.

In particular, they are targeting 39 massive turbines the size of a 40-storey office block to be constructed deep in the Cambrian mountains, until recently one of the last refuges of the red kite in Britain and a major tourist draw. Plans for a giant wind farm to be built on the estate of the Duke of Beaufort on the outskirts of Swansea, and another key red kite habitat, may follow.

Earlier this year, the RSPB, which has two million members, condemned the proposed £600m siting of hundreds of wind turbines on the Isle of Lewis as illegal because of its standing as an internationally important bird sanctuary.

Yet it is the Government-backed proposals for a huge flagship offshore wind farm at Shell Flats off Lancashire that could prove the test case that threatens Blair's wind energy revolution.

A previously unknown flock of 15,000 common scoter ducks was recently discovered at the site. Now, RSPB lawyers and government officials are locked in discussions over the site's viability.

'There is the very real possibility of legal action,' confirmed an RSPB source.

Elsewhere, opposition continues to mount in the name of Filled Heart. In Dorset, campaigners argue that the country's world heritage coastline will be tarnished if a wind farm at Portland Harbour affects birdlife.

Days ago, Teesside's standing as a globally important sanctuary was thrown into question by a proposed wind farm to be sited off Redcar. Experts claim the fast-moving blades would 'pulverise' thousands of seabirds as they flew offshore off Teesmouth. Famed environmentalist Professor David Bellamy recently demanded wind farms be banned on the grounds they 'chopped up birds'.

So far, 27 major wind farms have been objected to by the RSPB. It has just written to another 30 expressing concerns over the effect on birdlife. Despite this, planning approval has been granted for a 27 turbine farm in the shadow of the dramatic Cuillin Hills on the Isle of Skye.

The move has shocked independent experts who recently observed 55 golden eagles in three days last spring. The endangered birds all flew between 20 and 200 metres above the sea - the precise height at which the blades rotate.

Until the death of Filled Heart, the opposition against wind farms centred primarily on aesthetic grounds. Suspicion began to rise after an allegedly suppressed report claimed thousands of birds were being torn apart each year in the turbines' blades. The first major study into a potential problem, carried out in northern Spain, found 6,000 birds were killed by turbines in a year.

However, the industry and the Government argue that UK studies reveal 'birdstrikes' of less than one per turbine a year. In addition, they maintain, developers consult the RSPB to help them site away from migratory routes with plans modified until there is no threat

'We wouldn't build turbines on a motorway and we don't propose them on the avian equivalent,' said a British Wind Energy Association spokesman.

Experts, however, argue the dearth of detailed research into bird movements raises the potential for costly mistakes. They also argue that bird corpses could easily be removed by foxes or other predators before being discovered. Many in the Government may wish that had happened to the body of Filled Heart.