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Proposed offshore wind farm ruffles a few feathers

...the Gulf of Mexico along the Texas and Western Louisiana coast hosts the largest concentration of Neotropical migratory birds in the Western Hemisphere. These birds move by the billions between Latin America and North America.

All the talk about massive wind farms with huge rotating blades sitting offshore near Galveston and Padre Island has bird conservationists concerned.

After all, the Gulf of Mexico along the Texas and Western Louisiana coast hosts the largest concentration of Neotropical migratory birds in the Western Hemisphere. These birds move by the billions between Latin America and North America.

Particularly in the spring, Texas shores are often the first landing ground for birds on their northbound route to nesting territories in all parts of North America, including the Arctic Tundra. They travel about 600 miles across the Gulf from the Yucatan Peninsula, beginning their flight at night and crossing the Texas coast by next morning or early afternoon.

So what happens when the birds encounter 40,000 acres of 400-foot-tall wind turbines a few miles off the coast, as is planned at Padre Island? No one knows for sure. But we need to find the answer before plunging ahead, or we might wake up one day and say, "Oops, what's happened to all our songbirds?"

Wind energy certainly has the potential for clean, renewable energy, resulting in less dependence on fossil fuel and a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions known to... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  
All the talk about massive wind farms with huge rotating blades sitting offshore near Galveston and Padre Island has bird conservationists concerned.

After all, the Gulf of Mexico along the Texas and Western Louisiana coast hosts the largest concentration of Neotropical migratory birds in the Western Hemisphere. These birds move by the billions between Latin America and North America.

Particularly in the spring, Texas shores are often the first landing ground for birds on their northbound route to nesting territories in all parts of North America, including the Arctic Tundra. They travel about 600 miles across the Gulf from the Yucatan Peninsula, beginning their flight at night and crossing the Texas coast by next morning or early afternoon.

So what happens when the birds encounter 40,000 acres of 400-foot-tall wind turbines a few miles off the coast, as is planned at Padre Island? No one knows for sure. But we need to find the answer before plunging ahead, or we might wake up one day and say, "Oops, what's happened to all our songbirds?"

Wind energy certainly has the potential for clean, renewable energy, resulting in less dependence on fossil fuel and a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions known to coincide with global warming. Thus the rush to build wind farms off the Texas Coast. But the rush, if not thought out, might result in bloody bird feathers.

The American Wind Energy Association (www.awea.org) claims that wind turbines cause less harm to birds than hazards like vehicles, buildings and power lines. Such logic ignores the cumulative effect of man-made hazards, including deforestation, that have resulted in a steep decline in migratory songbirds. We need fewer bird hazards, not more.

Proof that wind turbines harm birds is at California's massive wind farm at Altamont Pass. Up to 1,300 birds of prey, including 75 golden eagles, perish each year in collisions with wind turbines and adjacent power lines.

The problem of bird mortality has not been ignored by the Texas wind-farm industry. Houston-based Superior Renewable Energy (www.superiorrenewable.com) has publicly stated its intention to conduct a study of bird migration in order to mitigate bird mortality at offshore wind turbines. However, the outlines of the study and possible mitigation strategy remain unclear.

Meanwhile, the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory (www.gcbo.org) in Lake Jackson is working with migratory-bird scientists to develop an independent research model to study the potential impact of offshore wind farms on migratory birds.

All of us, bird conservationists included, yearn for clean, renewable energy. But let's use the methods of science and technology to ensure we don't kill birds in a headlong rush to develop wind energy. Otherwise, the catastrophe of wind farms killing millions of migratory birds would put an ugly twist on the saying haste makes waste.

Naturalist Gary Clark and photographer Kathy Adams Clark can be reached at http://home.houston.rr.com/wondersofnature/.

WIND-FARM FACT
• Wind turbines transform wind energy into mechanical energy to produce electricity.

• Wind turbines may be 400 feet tall with 200-foot vertical rotor blades.

• Proposed location of offshore wind farms is within 10.3 miles of Galveston and Padre Island National Seashore in Texas jurisdictional waters.

• Danger to trans-Gulf migratory birds comes from collisions with turbine towers and rotating blades.


Migratory bird facts
• About 5 billion Neotropical migratory birds cross the Gulf in the spring en route from Latin America to nesting grounds throughout North America.

• Flight paths take most birds over the western Gulf along the Texas coast, the proposed site for wind turbines.

• Neotropical migratory birds include warblers, tanagers, vireos, orioles, ruby-throated hummingbirds and shorebirds.




Source: http://www.chron.com/disp/s...

JUN 3 2006
http://www.windaction.org/posts/2905-proposed-offshore-wind-farm-ruffles-a-few-feathers
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