Lisa Linowes' Letter to John Harrigan re. Bird Mortality and Wind Turbines
Dear Mr. Harrigan,
Thank you for your column published in December 14th's edition of the Littleton Courier. I was involved in Lyman's battle to protect the Gardner Mountains ridgeline and have since helped found National Wind Watch, Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to educating citizens nationwide on the negative impacts of wind energy.
I would like to comment on several of the points you made in your column that I hope you will find helpful.
In your column, you state bird mortality is a subject that wind energy opponents should stand down from. However, there is good reason for us to continue to shed light on this problem. To our knowledge, no commercial scale wind facility in the United States has been subject to pre-construction avian risk assessments that included remote sensing (radar or acoustical). The US Fish and Wildlife guidelines recommend a minimum of 3-years of remote study since bird migration periods vary year to year. This assessment will give us a good understanding of the number of birds that fly within the path of the spinning blades. The wind companies favor a study called "Phase I Avian Risk Assessment" popularized by Paul Kerlinger which involves direct human observation at a site. The Phase I studies performed at Mountaineer (WV), Meyersdale (PA), and Buffalo Mountain (TN) have all proved grossly inadequate. For the East Mountain project in VT, the Agency for Natural Resources hired Adam Kelly of Detect, Inc., who countered Kerlinger's testimony before the public service board. Kelly's report raised serious question as to the validity of Kerlinger's Phase I report. For Lempster Mountain in NH, we do not have any counter information but strongly suspect, from hunters on the ground in Lempster, that the Phase I, also prepared by Paul Kerlinger understates the avian risks.
In your column, you also state that "Studies have shown that birds tend to avoid the machines...". There is one study performed in Denmark on specific water fowl, during clear, daylight conditions, for a period of one year. The wind companies and their proponents have taken this study and extrapolated the results to the extreme. They have conveniently ignored the below quote by the study's authors:
"Caution should be taken, though, since this study covers one year of initial operation only and has focused on waterbirds (mainly geese and common eiders). During the initial operation, frequent visits of maintenance vessels may have influenced the avian avoidance response to the sweeping turbines in an uncertain way. Before solid conclusions can be reached, complementary studies at other sites are needed to confirm these findings, to include possible habituation behaviour over the years to come, and to cover other focal species such as divers (Gavia sp.) and common scoter (Melanitta nigra)."
"These findings also stress that the agenda for future environmental impact assessments should change. Rather than focus only on possible local catastrophe, efforts should also be made to assess the cumulative impacts of small-scale local effects on the different geographically defined avian opulations. Such an approach necessitates collaboration among scientists, reflecting that the preservation of migrating birds is, by its nature, an international effort."["Avian collision risk at an offshore wind farm" by Mark Desholm and Johnny Kahlert in Biology Letters (on-line publication),
Accepted 18 Apr. 2005]
The fact remains that there are no studies to date that consider migratory birds, during conditions of low-visibility. Post construction, empirical evidence suggests an alarming number of migratory birds and bats are being killed by the turbines. I am e-mailing you a document prepared by Merlin D. Tuttle of Bat Conservation International. Unfortunately, even on the high-profile Nantucket project, the Army Corps never bothered to conduct meaningful studies of bird impacts. If you were to ask them they would tell you just that, and it is one of the reasons the EIS was found inadequate by EPA.
The wind companies have argued the point that modern turbines spin more slowly than the older models, thus they are less deadly to birds. The 'slower' spin rate is a complete misnomer. The fact is, the new towers have blade lengths of 115+ feet. The 3-blade assembly sweeps an area of 1+ acre in size. In order to cover this distances at 15-18 revolutions per minute, the blades are spinning at 150-200 mph at the tips. This is a law of motion (rate x time = distance). At a distance, the blades look like they're dancing slowly in the breeze. This is an illusion. If a bird clears one blade, the next is traveling right at him at 150 mph. Since the blades are moving, birds do not judge distances well. Bear in mind that these blades have a thickness of 6+ feet. Thus, the newer towers are taller, spinning quickly at altitudes where migratory birds fly.
I will end with two links that you might find interesting: 1) 2005 report on Wind Energy from E.ON (largest grid operator in Germany)(http://www.eon-netz.com/) and 2) NJ Blue Ribbon panel interim report on offshore wind energy for New Jersey (http://www.state.nj.us/cgi-bin/governor/njnewsline/view_article.pl?id=2818"). Both paint a stark picture of wind energy.
My apologies for the length. If you would be interested in discussing this further please let me know. I would welcome the opportunity.