Library filed under Impact on Bats from California
Projects designed to improve the efficiency of wind-driven energy production in the Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area (APWRA) came with an unanticipated impact — an increase in bat mortality. While scientific experts are hesitant to even speculate at this point why they’re finding more bat carcasses near the new turbines than they did with the old turbines, those involved are aiming to create a reliable and repeatable means for studying and reducing the rate of deaths.
USFWS’s National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory studied three solar farms in Southern California: Desert Sunlight, Genesis Solar and Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS). Two-hundred and thirty-three different birds from 71 species were found over the course of a two-year study.
A wind farm in eastern Shasta County was responsible for the deaths of an estimated 339 birds in the first two years after it started generating electricity, according to studies done at Hatchet Ridge.
The group concluded in written comments that the project falls short of state law by failing to address the "expected cumulative fatalities" of birds and bats. However, project consultants for the county and the applicant, Nextra Energy Montezuma II Wind, LLC, pledged to provide habitat for wildlife and birds elsewhere.
The endangered desert tortoise and Mojave ground squirrel are frequent headliners in the local environmental debate whenever developers seek a piece of the High Desert. Now scientists are saying another population that's not quite so lovable also needs an advocate.
The thousand of birds killed by the wind turbines at Altamont Pass tainted the reputation of the renewable energy source. But according to a recent report by the Ventana Wildlife Society and the Stanford Solar and Wind Energy Project, smaller wind-power projects may be able to harvest energy in some parts of Monterey County without harming the endangered California condor. "The condor is the main thing that's been holding up the development of wind-power projects in Monterey County," said John Roitz.
The current management goal for the Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area (APWRA) is to significantly and substantially reduce the fatalities of birds resulting from collisions with the wind turbines and other turbine-related incidents. This is the first report on bird/bat mortality rates at the APWRA since the management plan was implemented. "The results of this study show an apparent continued trend of high bird fatalities, both raptors and non-raptors at APWRA. The number of annual fatalities does not appear to be decreasing despite implementation of specific conservations measures including the cross-over winter shutdown program, high risk turbine removal and blade-painting."
The California Energy Commission voted 3-0 Wednesday to approve voluntary guidelines to help reduce bird and bat deaths at wind turbines. The guidelines are meant to protect wildlife as the state moves to produce 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2010. Bird kills by the whirling blades have been the subject of lawsuits and injunctions in recent years.
Comments submitted to the California Energy Commission regarding proposed guidelines for conducting post-construction bird-bat mortality surveys at wind energy facilities. These comments were submitted by Dan Boone, a wildlife biologist with over 30 years professional experience.
Ducks in the Dakotas, tanagers in Texas and grosbeaks along the Gulf of Mexico could all be hit by the rapid growth of wind power unless the renewable electricity farms are carefully sited, experts said. "The first three rules of avoiding impacts with wind turbines are always going to be location, location, location," Mike Daulton, a spokesman with the National Audubon Society, said in a telephone interview. Clean-energy wind farms are cropping up rapidly in the United States on rising concerns about greenhouse gas carbon dioxide emissions and flat output of natural gas, which fires most of the power plants built since the 1990s. U.S. wind power is expected to increase by 26 percent in installed generation this year, after similar growth last year. A study by the National Academy of Sciences released late this week found that wind energy could reduce the energy sector's carbon dioxide emissions by 4.5 percent by 2020. But federal and state governments should take environmental impacts of wind energy more seriously as part of the planning, locating and regulating turbines, it said.
Nothing in nature is ever quite that simple.
Modern industrial wind turbines are just giant metal bird-killing guillotines.