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Birds and windmills don't mix

While the open sky is big enough for 400-foot-high wind turbines and migratory birds, animal conservationists are airing their concerns about the threat windmills pose to wildlife. "Any place thinking about installation (of wind turbines) should take years studying the issue," Keith Bildstein, director of conservation science at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, said Friday. "That is a prescription the wind industry apparently finds distasteful." Bildstein and other local conservationists and bird-watchers say the wind industry fails to adequately study bird migration patterns before wind projects break ground.

While the open sky is big enough for 400-foot-high wind turbines and migratory birds, animal conservationists are airing their concerns about the threat windmills pose to wildlife.

"Any place thinking about installation (of wind turbines) should take years studying the issue," Keith Bildstein, director of conservation science at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, said Friday. "That is a prescription the wind industry apparently finds distasteful."

Bildstein and other local conservationists and bird-watchers say the wind industry fails to adequately study bird migration patterns before wind projects break ground. Locally, Bildstein said Mahanoy Township's Locust Ridge Wind Farm - which has 13 operating turbines, with massive expansion under way to construct 51 more - could be a deadly danger for raptors and other flying creatures.

The wind industry - including Joe Green, wind developer for international power company Iberdrola Renewable Energies, which oversees the Locust Ridge project - dismisses such claims. Green and others say the wind industry takes environmental concerns, particularly the well-being of birds, very seriously,... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

While the open sky is big enough for 400-foot-high wind turbines and migratory birds, animal conservationists are airing their concerns about the threat windmills pose to wildlife.

"Any place thinking about installation (of wind turbines) should take years studying the issue," Keith Bildstein, director of conservation science at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, said Friday. "That is a prescription the wind industry apparently finds distasteful."

Bildstein and other local conservationists and bird-watchers say the wind industry fails to adequately study bird migration patterns before wind projects break ground. Locally, Bildstein said Mahanoy Township's Locust Ridge Wind Farm - which has 13 operating turbines, with massive expansion under way to construct 51 more - could be a deadly danger for raptors and other flying creatures.

The wind industry - including Joe Green, wind developer for international power company Iberdrola Renewable Energies, which oversees the Locust Ridge project - dismisses such claims. Green and others say the wind industry takes environmental concerns, particularly the well-being of birds, very seriously, pointing to statistics showing wind turbines account for less than one percent of bird deaths per year.

"The developers take these concerns into consideration. We've done multiple years of studies," Green said Friday. "All results (at Locust Ridge) have indicated there are little-to-no impacts on birds."

The conflict often comes from wind farms and migrating birds sharing similar space - elevated ridges, which provide natural flying routes for birds and also stronger wind gusts, resulting in more power for both birds and windmills.

A proposed wind farm in Pine Grove Township, being developed by Gamesa Energy USA, Philadelphia, is waiting until at least next year while its possible environmental effects are studied.

"I think we have a pretty good track record," Laurie Jodziewicz, spokeswoman for the American Wind Energy Association, said Friday. "I wouldn't say (wind turbines) being in a (bird) migration route is inherently risky. Outside of the Altamont Pass (in California), we have not seen a lot of bird kills."

Wind turbines at Altamont, which many say is an exception the rule, kill between 1,700 to 4,700 birds a year, according to the California Energy Commission.

However, while both sides agree determining accurate numbers of bird kills per year is nearly impossible, AWEA studies show wind turbines are responsible for less than 0.003 percent of bird kills each year.

"The difficulty we have in determining deaths is many of the carcasses are being removed," Bildstein said, adding predators often eat or drag bird bodies away from wind turbine sites before they're seen.

Nevertheless, the industry says years of research into bird migration is done before the wind tower first spins its blades.

"The industry takes avian issues very seriously. Avian and wildlife studies are standard practice," Jodziewicz said.

Near Blue Mountain Ski Area, Palmerton, one wind turbine has conservationists concerned.

"You put a wind turbine up there, you're going to have bird strikes - period," Dan Kunkle, executive director of the Lehigh Gap Nature Center, based in Slatington, said Friday. "You could have a massacre up there on a given night."

Kunkle said plans to install a turbine along Kittatinny Ridge would be a nightmare for the 15,000 raptors and 205 bald eagles that fly along the ridge each year.

"This is a delicate balance. We need wind power, but at what cost?" Kunkle said. "Just imagine if a few of those bald eagles were killed."

Jodziewicz said a set of standard rules for where and where not to construct turbines is impossible.

"It is site-specific," she said of wind farm locations.

Permit requirements and environmental concerns differ from state to state.

In Pennsylvania, the Department of Environmental Protection is involved with the permit process, but officials said concerns such as water runoff trump the possibility of bird strikes.

Also, the debate over whether turbines are killing large numbers of birds is likely to go on forever.

"You're going to find dueling experts," DEP spokesman Mark Carmon said, referring to wind advocates and conservationists unable to reach a consensus.

Carmon also said AWEA statistics showing buildings, communications towers and automobiles cause many more bird deaths need to be taken into consideration before demonizing wind power.

"How many times are you at home and a bird runs into your window?" Carmon said.


Source: http://www.republicanherald...

SEP 14 2008
https://www.windaction.org/posts/17083-birds-and-windmills-don-t-mix
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