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Which Way Does the Wind Blow?

The Coastal Habitat Alliance, which is fighting a massive wind farm proposed for the Kenedy Ranch in South Texas, has raised some troubling, not terribly well-studied problems with wind power - namely it may take a toll on wildlife. As it happens, the Kenedy Ranch is smack dab in the middle of one of the most important corridors for migratory birds in the U.S., a sort of feathery superhighway. ...the Alliance's demands are pretty simple - before the PUC grants a permit to build the 21-mile, high-voltage power line, they want a study commissioned on the impact to the birds, bats and bees.

And just when you thought wind, the leading energy alternative to fossil fuels, was squeaky clean we learn, not so much...

The Coastal Habitat Alliance, which is fighting a massive wind farm proposed for the Kenedy Ranch in South Texas, has raised some troubling, not terribly well-studied problems with wind power - namely it may take a toll on wildlife.

As it happens, the Kenedy Ranch is smack dab in the middle of one of the most important corridors for migratory birds in the U.S., a sort of feathery superhighway. You've heard of radioactive fallout, but how about bird fallout? It's when migratory birds, exhausted from travel, make an emergency pit stop for water, food, and rest. The Lower Laguna Madre and the Kenedy Ranch are a key fallout spot for birds passing through Texas.

All the related infrastructure for the Kenedy wind farm - roads, concrete pads, the giant transmission line - threaten the critical habitat for the fallouts as well as indigenous species, according to the Alliance. (Here's a map.) A filing with the Public Utility Commission by the Coastal Habitat Alliance, which includes the Audubon Society and the Lower Laguna Madre Foundation, reads:

The proposed transmission line will have negative... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

And just when you thought wind, the leading energy alternative to fossil fuels, was squeaky clean we learn, not so much...

The Coastal Habitat Alliance, which is fighting a massive wind farm proposed for the Kenedy Ranch in South Texas, has raised some troubling, not terribly well-studied problems with wind power - namely it may take a toll on wildlife.

As it happens, the Kenedy Ranch is smack dab in the middle of one of the most important corridors for migratory birds in the U.S., a sort of feathery superhighway. You've heard of radioactive fallout, but how about bird fallout? It's when migratory birds, exhausted from travel, make an emergency pit stop for water, food, and rest. The Lower Laguna Madre and the Kenedy Ranch are a key fallout spot for birds passing through Texas.

All the related infrastructure for the Kenedy wind farm - roads, concrete pads, the giant transmission line - threaten the critical habitat for the fallouts as well as indigenous species, according to the Alliance. (Here's a map.) A filing with the Public Utility Commission by the Coastal Habitat Alliance, which includes the Audubon Society and the Lower Laguna Madre Foundation, reads:

The proposed transmission line will have negative ecological impacts throughout this undeveloped region and beyond. Ecological fragmentation and the impacts to migrant and resident species will be felt in adjacent ranches such as the Armstrong Ranch and King Ranch and will affect birding groups that view these species as well as those that use the Laguna Madre. The impacts associated with construction, maintenance, and operation of the transmission line must be considered, irrespective of the secondary impacts of the wind generation facilities themselves.

This is a tricky spot for these environmentally-minded groups to find themselves in. All sources of energy have trade-offs. On one hand, each new wind turbine arguably displaces a carbon-intensive, polluting coal- or natural gas-fired plant. And there's probably no greater threat to the very existence of wildlife than climate change. On the other hand, scaling up wind to the level needed to truly make a difference could mean serious negative impacts on habitat and species. The Alliance, except the King Ranch, has made a point of saying its members are not opposed to wind power on other sites. In fact many of the individual groups have wholeheartedly thrown their support behind the burgeoning industry. They just object to this particular (sensitive) location.

"There are plenty of places in the state of Texas that have plenty of wind that don't have the endangered species problem, that don't have the migratory bird problem, that don't have the wetlands problem," said Elyse Yates, spokeswoman for the Alliance. "This is just a horrible site."

At this point the Alliance's demands are pretty simple - before the PUC grants a permit to build the 21-mile, high-voltage power line, they want a study commissioned on the impact to the birds, bats and bees. So far the PUC has turned the Alliance down, but an appeal is set to be heard on October 17.


Source: http://www.texasobserver.or...

OCT 10 2007
http://www.windaction.org/posts/11390-which-way-does-the-wind-blow
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