Library filed under Impact on Wildlife from Texas
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."
With the Panhandle targeted for increased wind power development, many landowners already have signed or are considering signing contracts with energy companies. But questions remain, especially about wildlife. ...The Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center in Taylor and Nolan counties was the single largest wind farm in operation in the nation in 2007, Cearley said. With four of the five largest U.S. wind farms now located in Texas, it is necessary to study the impact on wildlife.
By year's end, developers expect to have about 250 huge wind turbines in place on Kenedy Ranch north of Raymondville, generating enough electricity to power approximately 90,000 homes. And more could be on the way. ...In May, the alliance filed a court petition seeking to stop the development. The federal judge who heard the case has not yet made a decision. The groups say that the ranch is on a major migratory pathway for birds, and they believe that tall, fast-spinning turbines on that pathway could lead to trouble. "We think there's a very high likelihood of catastrophic bird kills," said Elyse Yates, spokeswoman for the alliance.
A federal court judge said Tuesday he needs time to sort through a complicated legal challenge brought by the King Ranch and several environmental groups that want to stop a massive wind farm near the South Texas Gulf Coast. U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel will have to decide if a mid-1990s federal Coastal Zone Management Act requires the state to conduct public hearings before a wind farm can be approved - if it affects private property and if the environmental groups have a right to sue. ...Lawyers for the wind farm developers said wind farms are not like electric utilities, which are subject to regulation.
Nearly all of some 175 landowners raised their hands during a meeting here Friday when a West Texas lawmaker asked how many wanted legislators to oppose billionaire T. Boone Pickens' efforts to obtain rights of way for water pipeline and electricity transmission lines. The lines would also pass through parts of Archer, Hardeman, Jack, Wichita and Wilbarger counties. A similar meeting has been scheduled Thursday in Holliday. One landowner shouted "Do it," during the show of hands urging lawmakers fight Pickens' attempts to obtain rights of way to build the world's largest wind farm and to ship water from the Panhandle to thirsty areas downstate. No one - not even Pickens' representatives - raised their hands when state Sen. Bob Duncan asked who wanted lawmakers to support the projects.
Two wind farms, part of a $2 billion project, have been proposed near Hebbronville, just east of Laredo. Corpus Christi-based American Shoreline and its partner, San Diego, Calif.-based Eviva Spinnaker, plan to develop the 800-megawatt wind project. It calls for 400 turbines about 350 feet tall spread out over 35,000 acres in Jim Hogg, Webb and Zapata counties. The electricity that would be generated from the two wind farms would power about 220,000 homes. The project recently was announced and has not received vocal opposition. But if vocal opposition toward two Kenedy County wind projects is any indication, there soon will be. Kenedy County is about 100 miles south of Corpus Christi.
Attorney Jim Blackburn of the Coastal Habitat Alliance presents a comprehensive summary of the development and impacts of the Kenedy County wind farms in Texas.
Combined with a $400 million Peñascal Wind Farm on property owned by the John G. Kenedy Jr. Charitable Trust, the projects will place roughly 240 turbines on thousands of acres of Kenedy County property. The Coastal Habitat Alliance, made up of the King Ranch and several environmental groups, agrees wind energy has benefits. But the group cites environmental concerns including potential damage to South Texas bird populations and possible harm to the Laguna Madre as reasons the projects should not happen in Kenedy County. "We are very concerned about impacts," said Jim Blackburn, a Houston environmental attorney representing the Coastal Habitat Alliance. "I am for wind energy. The question is: Is wind supportable at this site?" The Coastal Habitat Alliance has sued the Public Utility Commission and the Texas General Land office to stop the projects ...
Whooping cranes, one of the world's rarest birds, have waged a valiant battle against extinction. But federal officials warn of a new potential threat to the endangered whoopers: wind farms. Down to as few as 16 in 1941, the gargantuan birds that migrate 2,400 miles each fall from Canada to Texas, thanks to conservation efforts, now number about 266. But because wind energy, one of the fastest growing sources of renewable energy, has gained such traction, whooping cranes could again be at risk - from either crashing into the towering wind turbines and transmission lines or because of habitat lost to the wind farms. "Basically you can overlay the strongest, best areas for wind turbine development with the whooping crane migration corridor," said Tom Stehn, whooping crane coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
This paper was presented at the Fourth International Partners in Flight Conference: Tundra to Tropics held February 13-16, 2008 in Texas.
Mr. Robert L. Cook, a wildlife biologist and former Executive Director of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) provided this testimony before the Brown County Commissioners Court. Mr. Cook supports his recommendation that a wind farm tax abatement not be granted on wind projects in the county.
A Houston-based environmental group with local ties has released an environmental impact study that it says might stop the construction of two proposed Kenedy County wind farms. ...EDM assessed the proposed sites and found "the operation of the projects could result in the largest and most significant avian mortality event in the history of wind energy. The associated negative repercussions to the expanding wind industry both in the U.S. and internationally could be significant, as well," according to its report. The study will be used in ongoing litigation seeking to prevent the construction of the wind farms, says alliance spokeswoman Elyse Yates. Officials for both companies say they have conducted studies for years and findings show there would be minimal impact to the environment and birds.
Wind turbines on the southern Texas Gulf Coast, and in Kenedy County in particular, could have a "catastrophic" impact on migrating and local birds, according to a new environmental review commissioned by the Coastal Habitat Alliance. Wind farm developers, however, maintain that the proposed wind projects on Kenedy Ranch will have minimal effects on birds. ..."In terms of potential harm to migratory and local birds and bats, the location of the proposed wind projects in South Texas is among the worst that can be found on any piece of private land in Texas and rivals the damage that could occur if a similar project were built on a wildlife refuge," the report states.
Two wind power projects under construction in Kenedy County, Texas will pose a threat to migratory and resident birds and bats, according to a scientific study released today by the Coastal Habitat Alliance. The two projects, both being built on private ranch land, will be the first wind farms in coastal south Texas. ...Conducted by EDM International, Inc. using methodologies developed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, today's report shows that in terms of potential harm to migratory birds the wind farm sites are almost as sensitive as a national wildlife refuge established for bird protection. "The proposed Kenedy County Wind Projects, totaling 1,200 MW, are unprecedented along the Gulf Coast and the operation of these proposed projects could result in the largest and most significant avian mortality event in the history of wind energy," says the EDM report.
Executive summary of the Coastal Habitat Alliance's independent review on the potential environmental impact of the proposed Kenedy County wind projects. Click here to access the full document.
But what happens when a good idea is put in the wrong place? "You've gotta look at the ecological setting. And some settings are wrong for it," said Jim Blackburn, a Houston-based environmental lawyer working for the Coastal Habitat Alliance, CHA. Projects by two companies now underway would put 600 wind turbines about 400 feet tall along the South Texas coast. That's where millions of migratory birds must pass through to fly south for the winter. "It's a world-class worst site," said Blackburn. CHA and other coastal environmental groups say the blades will kill the birds, and project threatens valuable Texas wetlands. But the companies behind the wind farms don't need any state permits to build.
NRG Energy -- the second energy company to have shown interest over the past year in developing a wind generation operation in Gillespie County -- has now decided to discontinue its efforts here. “While we have not yet made any decisions on where to locate additional wind farms, the site we were exploring in Gillespie County is no longer being considered,” David B. Knox, communications manager for NRG in Houston, told the Standard-Radio Post yesterday afternoon in a phone interview. Knox added that the company’s initial review of environmental and economic data showed more promising sites for locating an energy-efficient wind farm elsewhere in the state. ...Word of NRG’s decision initially came Nov. 30 in a phone conversation between an NRG officer and District 24 State Sen. Troy Fraser of Horseshoe Bay who said the developer stated that there is some question about there being enough wind capacity in Gillespie County to make a wind generating facility here feasible. ...Greg Snelgrove, executive director of the Gillespie County Economic Development Commission, said Monday that, while he, too, is pleased with NRG’s decision, “we’ve got to be ever-vigilant” in working to discourage other alternative power companies from initiating industrial wind farm interests here.
The dispute over construction of two wind farms adjacent to the famed King Ranch in south Texas entered the courts Tuesday when an alliance of conservation and related groups filed lawsuits to stop the projects. The Coastal Habitat Alliance, which includes King Ranch, filed separate lawsuits in state and federal court in Austin. The federal lawsuit claims the state has not done a thorough analysis of the impact the farms and their massive turbines will have on wetlands, habitat, endangered species and migratory birds. It seeks a declaratory judgment and, if needed, an injunction against the developers, whose combined initial investments are expected to top $1 billion. The state lawsuit claims the Texas Public Utility Commission illegally denied the alliance a chance to intervene in the PUC's hearings on transmission lines for the wind farms. ...But the alliance claims that because Texas receives federal funds to help protect the coastal region through the Coastal Zone Management Act, a thorough environmental review of the wind projects is required.
The Texas Hill Country, home to the world's largest remaining bat colonies, has been the focus of proposals for wind energy projects. We are deeply concerned about the potentially serious consequences to Hill Country wildlife - ironically, from an energy source commonly promoted as "green." ...While we feel it is the private landowner's decision whether to participate in wind energy development, overarching concerns for wildlife create a need for caution. Development of wind energy in areas of high wildlife usage, such as certain Hill Country and Gulf Coast sites, should be avoided until credible scientific documentation of threat levels and solutions has been gathered. ...The environmental consciousness demonstrated by AES SeaWest in the Hill Country must be emulated throughout the wind-energy industry. Companies that put wildlife at risk cannot claim to produce "green energy."
...wind power has attracted an impressive array of critics. Scientists question wind power's efficiency as a consistent power source. Number crunchers point out that without subsidies, wind power is a prohibitive energy source. Biologists, birders, and hunters cite the deadly effect of these huge turbines on migrating and permanent populations of birds and bats as well as the destruction of crucial habitat in order to service the elaborate infrastructure. The technology is so new, and the pressure to create clean energy so intense, there has been little regulatory oversight of the industry nationally, and organizations traditionally thought to oppose such habitat degeneration, such as the Sierra Club and the National Audubon Society, have voiced their support for wind energy.