Article

Wing Barrier Potential bird hazards could kill wind project

Boston construction giant Jay Cashman wants to build a massive wind farm in pristine Buzzards Bay, but says there is one potential obstacle. "The one thing I am concerned about is birds," Mr. Cashman told a group in Fairhaven when he unveiled his $750 million renewable energy project earlier this month.

a

PETER PEREIRA/The Standard-Times
Threats to endangered birds present an obstacle to plans for a Buzzards Bay wind farm. Roseate terns nest primarily on Ram Island in Mattapoisett and Bird Island in Marion, and Buzzards Bay is home to nearly half of North America’s population of the endangered birds

The project, known as South Coast Wind, calls for as many as 120 massive turbines in the bay. Clusters of 30 to 40 turbines would be planted 1 to 3 miles off the coast of Fairhaven, Dartmouth and Naushon Island, one of the Elizabeth Islands.

Avian studies "could ultimately stop the project" if they prove the turbines would harm birds, Mr. Cashman said. He confessed to being "ignorant" about bird issues though more versed on such topics as fishing and navigation.

The Massachusetts Audubon Society is "very skeptical" that Buzzards Bay is an appropriate site for an industrial-scale wind facility, said Jack Clarke, spokesman for the bird conservation group.

He called the bay a "roseate tern factory," since it is home to 99 percent of the state's population and 45 percent of North America's population of the endangered birds.

Roseate terns — small, pale gray birds with V-shaped tails and black heads — were first added to the U.S. Endangered Species List in 1987. They migrate to the bay in the spring and nest primarily on Ram Island in Mattapoisett and Bird Island... [truncated due to possible copyright]  

 a

PETER PEREIRA/The Standard-Times
Threats to endangered birds present an obstacle to plans for a Buzzards Bay wind farm. Roseate terns nest primarily on Ram Island in Mattapoisett and Bird Island in Marion, and Buzzards Bay is home to nearly half of North America’s population of the endangered birds

 

The project, known as South Coast Wind, calls for as many as 120 massive turbines in the bay. Clusters of 30 to 40 turbines would be planted 1 to 3 miles off the coast of Fairhaven, Dartmouth and Naushon Island, one of the Elizabeth Islands.

Avian studies "could ultimately stop the project" if they prove the turbines would harm birds, Mr. Cashman said. He confessed to being "ignorant" about bird issues though more versed on such topics as fishing and navigation.

The Massachusetts Audubon Society is "very skeptical" that Buzzards Bay is an appropriate site for an industrial-scale wind facility, said Jack Clarke, spokesman for the bird conservation group.

He called the bay a "roseate tern factory," since it is home to 99 percent of the state's population and 45 percent of North America's population of the endangered birds.

Roseate terns — small, pale gray birds with V-shaped tails and black heads — were first added to the U.S. Endangered Species List in 1987. They migrate to the bay in the spring and nest primarily on Ram Island in Mattapoisett and Bird Island in Marion.

Mass Audubon wants Mr. Cashman to spend three years studying where the terns fly in relationship to the "rotor-swept zone within which the turbines move," Mr. Clarke said.

Plans for the South Coast Wind turbines include fiberglass rotor blades, measuring 135 to 180 feet long. Turbines as high as 450 feet, including the blades, would be spaced between 1,500 to 2,000 feet apart, according to documents from project proponent Patriot Renewables — the renewable energy subsidiary of Jay Cashman Inc.

In addition to roseate terns, Mass Audubon wants to know how the spinning turbines will affect night-migratory songbirds and threatened piping plovers that fly over the bay.

Piping plovers nest on beaches in Dartmouth and Westport. They are small, stocky birds with sandy-colored plumage and a distinguishing black band across their foreheads.

Songbirds, which migrate in large groups through Southeastern Massachusetts in the spring and fall, usually fly thousands of feet high, Mr. Clarke said. Mass Audubon is concerned that they might fly closer to the turbines during stormy weather and fog, he said.

Radar monitoring from land or a barge could help scientists better understand their flight patterns, he added.

Similar studies were conducted over five years on Horseshoe Shoal in Nantucket Sound, site of the proposed 130-turbine Cape Wind project. At peak winds, the wind farm would produce about 420 megawatts of electricity. In comparison, South Coast Wind would produce about 300 megawatts of electricity.

In March, Mass Audubon gave its conditional support to Cape Wind. It asked developers to agree to conduct post-construction monitoring and mitigation measures to reduce the risk to birds and other wildlife.

A copy of the group's proposal to Cape Wind, stated: "Based on our assessment of field data and the relevant literature, Mass Audubon has tentatively concluded that the project does not pose an ecologically significant threat to birds and the associated marine habitat."

When roseate terns leave Buzzards Bay and Long Island Sound at the end of the summer, they rest on Cape Cod's South Monomoy Island before migrating to the southern hemisphere, Mr. Clarke said.

But studies have shown that the birds "do not cross the shoals," he said.

Mass Audubon's support for Cape Wind is not indicative of the group's position on South Coast Wind, Mr. Clarke noted.

"It's a very different location," he said, "It's a breeding ground for an endangered species."

Beyond birds, Mass Audubon questions how Mr. Cashman can legally build a wind farm in Buzzards Bay, which is part of the Cape and Islands Ocean Sanctuary. The Massachusetts Ocean Sanctuary Act prohibits both the building of offshore electric generating stations and of any structure on the seabed or under the subsoil.

An additional concern is navigation, Mr. Clarke said. With so many barges transporting fuel through the ecologically sensitive bay, Mass Audubon is wary of projects that "could interfere with navigation" and cause an oil spill, he said.

The groups plans to discuss these and other concerns in a comment letter it will submit to the state's Executive Office of Environmental Affairs at the end of the month.

In March, Patriot Renewables filed an environmental notification form with the state, initiating a lengthy review and multi-agency permitting process for South Coast Wind. Public comments on the document are due on July 31.

The comments will help the state determine what studies are required for the environmental impact report that Patriot Renewables must prepare.

Mass Audubon hopes its expertise in birds and experience with wind projects will carry weight with state environmental agents, Mr. Clarke said.

As for the group's skepticism regarding the project, Mr. Cashman should not be surprised.
"We talked with him about this," Mr. Clarke said.

Mr. Cashman was candid with the public about his own concern for birds when he spoke with the Fairhaven group.

"It would be criminal to have a project that would kill them," he said.

Contact Becky W. Evans
at revans@s-t.com


Source: link missing! please notify us

JUL 24 2006
https://www.windaction.org/posts/3633-wing-barrier-potential-bird-hazards-could-kill-wind-project
back to top