Library filed under Impact on Birds from Texas
Attached to this page are two letters by the American Bird Conservancy sent to EDF Renewables in regard to EDF's proposed Vista Mountain wind project slated for Hamilton and Mills counties in Texas. The letters raise specific concerns with the impact of the turbines on the ecologically-sensitive Texas Hill Country/Cross Timbers Region on the Edwards Plateau. The letters are important in that they inform readers how significant and habitat-rich the Texas landscape is, a fact that repeatedly gets ignored when the wind industry only touts the number of megawatts installed in the State. The full text of the first letter is pasted below. Both letters can be downloaded from this page.
Many environmentalists who support alternative energy sources are conflicted by the giant turbines' impact on birds. To the human eye the majestic turbine blades make a slow circle as they are set in motion by gulf breezes. The reality is the tips of the blades are really moving as fast as 170 mph, and can lead to fatal encounters for migratory birds and bats.
South Padre Island City Manager William DiLibero said the company’s decision to withdraw from the wind farm project was based on concerns over threats to migratory birds. “If there’s a threat to migratory birds we’re pleased to see the (company) is pulling its application,” DiLibero said.
The rule shields producers enrolled in the plan and operating in compliance with it from punishment for the accidental death or disturbance of the bird the EPA has targeted for listing as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
"What people need to understand is that it's not just prairie chickens. It's really the inter-connectedness of these biotic communities," Boal said. "When we have indicators like a prairie chicken, and there's something going wrong, that's an indication of that biotic community as a whole. We need to think about, ‘what is the world we want to live in?'
Oil, gas and wind energy producers are working to persuade federal wildlife officials not to enact protections for the lesser prairie chicken, a move that could force them to halt or significantly alter their operations to protect the species' dwindling grassland habitat.
I live in a rather harsh and very real world. And I've learned some things. When you pull a trigger you can't stop the bullet. It's gone. Like an extinct species, there is no amount of "what-ifs" or "if we had just done something" that will bring them back. But there is still time in this case. If we stand up for what we know is right and organize we can stop these Cuisinarts of the sky from coming.
Lanoue and his wife, Linda, came to ask federal officials to press the industry to report more information about bird deaths at wind farms, echoing a common complaint from wildlife advocates who say the industry hasn't done enough to measure the effect of turbines on birds.
Mark Leyland, Baryonyx's senior vice president of offshore wind projects, said he'd be surprised if USACE didn't call for a full-scale EIS, though his company intends to do an EIS-equivalent study no matter what the agency decides. He added that people are right to be concerned about the project's impact.
Thousands of giant wind turbines swing their arms in a Prairie-Chicken nightmare. Right now, Texas gets only 6 percent of its power from wind energy. But a mere three years from now, the state hopes to have enough new transmission lines to deliver 20 percent of our electricity from wind turbines.
We watched as the pelicans continued soaring between us and the turbines. It appeared that they were getting closer and closer to the next turbine, but it was hard to get a handle on how close they actually were. Finally, they were approaching one of the most easterly turbines in that particular string, and we watched as the last bird in the group was struck and literally "erased" from the air (a blade is about the width of a city bus, and moving about 180 mph). It was flying at or just below hub height, and was hit on the downstroke.
Iberdrola SA and E.ON AG's turbine dreams for the windswept Texas Panhandle may be stymied by the mating rituals of the lesser prairie chicken. Wind-power developers such as E.ON are scouring sagebrush and grasslands for the presence of ground-dwelling chickens that could impede turbine construction plans. Once plentiful in the southern high plains, the bird has a high priority for listing under the Endangered Species Act, which would put at risk where as much as $11 billion in turbines that are part of the U.S.'s renewable-energy push can be built.
Should the lesser prairie chicken become listed as threatened or endangered - and it's close now - there would be significant restrictions on companies hoping to plant towering turbines across a five-state region believed to have some of the nation's best wind energy potential. "We've never seen the likes of this," said Texas Parks and Wildlife Department wildlife biologist Heather Whitlaw, who is part of conservation efforts with the other states and believes the bird could be listed within two years. "Anybody who puts anything on our landscape would be evaluated in one form or another."
Millions of birds funnel through the Texas coast before they head north along the Central Flyway, one of the great bird migration routes between South America and the Arctic. This was the first year that wind farms were operating there during the spring migration. One study near the coastal wind farms in Kenedy County, near the Laguna Madre, found that at the peak of fall migration in 2007, 4,000 birds an hour passed in a 1-kilometer-wide band.
US wind farms kill about 7,000 birds a year, according to a recent study. Other studies of individual wind farms suggest a higher toll on bats and birds, which crash into towers, blades, power lines and other installations. Estimates from a single wind farm in Altamont, California showed as many as 1,300 birds of prey killed each year - or about three a day. Such direct threats to wildlife, and concern for habitats, have increasingly pitted conservationists against the renewable energy industry. A handful of wind power projects in the US have been shelved because of wildlife concerns.
The Chestnut-collared Longspur winters in New Mexico and Texas, including parts of the Big Country, before migrating north to breed for the summer. The bird, however, has suffered a steep population decline, as have other species that follow the same migration pattern, according to a recent government report. The federal report says various factors - including energy production of all types, such as wind farms - have contributed to a 40-year decline in the national bird population.
A group that wants to slow the rush of wind turbines to the Texas Coast is asking the Federal Aviation Administration to require environmental studies for Texas wind farms. The Coastal Habitat Alliance has filed a petition with the FAA asking for the change in policy. This is the latest in a series of attempts the group has made to fight the emergence of wind farms on the coast, which is a major migratory bird route. The alliance worries about the impact thousands of wind turbines could have on the bird population.
About 140 people got another look at the coming world of wind power Friday. Birds and bats were major topics, but the basic message was that there needs to be more study of the impact of wind farms and turbines. "We're kind of finding our way along with the industry," Kathy Boydston, a biologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, told the gathering at the Ambassador Hotel in Amarillo. Experts are trying to find ways to deter birds and bats from hitting turbines, but the lack of information on how many fall victim and how it happens is lacking.
One native bird in the area may soon be added to the endangered species list. And it could have a big impact on future wind farm development in the Panhandle. There are only a few lesser prairie chickens left in Texas. And because of huge wind farms proposed in the Panhandle, their population is in limbo. Today at the Panhandle Wind and Wildlife Conference here in Amarillo, wildlife experts discussed the impact wind turbines and wind farms have on animals, both in the air and on the ground.
A regional conservation group is pointing out where birds and wind farms might not mix. A Playa Lakes Joint Venture mapping project shows the few remaining acres of habitat for the lesser prairie chicken and where playa lakes can draw large numbers of migrating birds. "There has been a lot of interest from the wind industry, local and state conservation groups and state agencies," said Megan McLachlan, a geographic-information system analyst for the group. "We've gotten a lot of phone calls the last couple of months asking us to share the data. There's a lot of people working on the issue."