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Concerns over birds in blades - Migration patterns will be studied by Houston-based firm for 3 years

Fifty miles south of Corpus Christi, a few miles offshore, as many as 170 wind turbines will tower over the water, generating enough electricity to power 125,000 homes, Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson said Thursday.

Offshore Wind Turbines
Caller-Times file photo

The world's largest offshore wind farm, on 39,900 submerged acres, will begin operating between three and eight miles from land within five years, Patterson said. It is expected to generate 500 megawatts.

But first, the company leasing those offshore acres, Houston-based Superior Renewable Energy, will spend three years monitoring bird migration patterns and assessing the wind. The company also has not chosen a design for the wind turbines, though they're expected to be 400 feet tall.

The effect on birds is a major concern, as coastal South Texas is a major migratory bird flyway. Environmentalists, normally strong advocates of alternative sources of energy, were critical of the project.

Pat Suter, a Corpus Christi environmentalist associated with several organizations, said the biggest concern is the lack of studies for offshore wind farms.

"I have no idea what the impact will be and whether three or four years of monitoring is enough," Suter said.

Ray Allen, executive director of the Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program, said concerns are high because there is a wide migration corridor, which places more migrating birds at risk of being attracted to... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  
Offshore Wind Turbines
Caller-Times file photo

The world's largest offshore wind farm, on 39,900 submerged acres, will begin operating between three and eight miles from land within five years, Patterson said. It is expected to generate 500 megawatts.

But first, the company leasing those offshore acres, Houston-based Superior Renewable Energy, will spend three years monitoring bird migration patterns and assessing the wind. The company also has not chosen a design for the wind turbines, though they're expected to be 400 feet tall.

The effect on birds is a major concern, as coastal South Texas is a major migratory bird flyway. Environmentalists, normally strong advocates of alternative sources of energy, were critical of the project.

Pat Suter, a Corpus Christi environmentalist associated with several organizations, said the biggest concern is the lack of studies for offshore wind farms.

"I have no idea what the impact will be and whether three or four years of monitoring is enough," Suter said.

Ray Allen, executive director of the Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program, said concerns are high because there is a wide migration corridor, which places more migrating birds at risk of being attracted to the turbines.

"We already know birds fly across the Gulf of Mexico, but their paths are determined, in large part, by weather conditions," Allen said. "We already know birds are attracted to oil platforms if they're tired, during inclement weather and by platform lights. No one can say what the impact will be."

Studies haven't been conducted in other areas of the world that have offshore wind farms because they aren't in major migratory bird flight paths, said David Newstead, an environmental scientist with the Coastal Bend Audubon Society.

Underwater, the wind farm could help marine life by establishing a new reef environment, said Richard McLaughlin with the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.

"The Gulf is quite sandy and quite flat and whenever you have a built-up structure like that, you're going to see benefits," said McLaughlin, the institute's chairman of marine policy and law. "Some fish species might benefit by having more places to breed and find food that might take up a home."

The rising cost of oil and gas combined with the state's effort to diversify its energy portfolio led to the lease agreement, Patterson said. Last year, he announced the state's first lease for an offshore wind farm, off the Galveston coast, with 50 turbines expected.

"We recognize that someday oil and gas will go away," he said. "We're second in wind energy after California and we don't like being second. We intend to be first."

The project will generate jobs for the area, said Michael Hansen, Superior's executive vice president and general counsel, though he didn't have estimates.

"It will mean good jobs for Kenedy County and the surrounding areas," Hansen said. "If this project goes to 1,000 megawatts, I could anticipate seeing industries develop in the area."

The location was chosen because the company, with an onshore wind farm project in Kenedy County, was familiar with the area.

"The wind blows hard there and we feel this is the hot spot," he said. "This is a real opportunity for Texas to lead the world into the next energy millennium."



Migrating Birds
Many birds from the United States and Canada nest in North America during the spring and migrate to Central and South America for winter. Many cross Texas to reach their destination. The following are species of circum-Gulf migrants, birds that generally migrate by hugging the coastline of Texas while traveling to or from their nesting sites, and trans-Gulf migrants, bird that cross the Gulf of Mexico to and from the Yucatan Peninsula.

Circum-Gulf migrants
Turkey vulture
Broad-winged hawk
Yellow-bellied flycatcher
Tree swallow
Bank swallow
Orange-crowned warbler
Mourning warbler
Chipping sparrow
Indigo bunting
Painted bunting


Trans-Gulf migrants
Chimney swift
Ruby-throated hummingbird
Belted kingfisher
Yellow-throated vireo
Warbling vireo
Purple martin
Barn swallow
*More than 20 species of warblers
Summer tanager
Scarlet tanager
Rose-breasted grosbeak
Blue grosbeak
Bobolink
Orchard oriole
Baltimore oriole


 



Source: http://www.caller.com/ccct/...

MAY 12 2006
http://www.windaction.org/posts/2584-concerns-over-birds-in-blades-migration-patterns-will-be-studied-by-houston-based-firm-for-3-years
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