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Bird and Bat Mortality

     Many proponents of large-scale, commercial wind power generation facilities have adopted the position that the effects of such large-scale generation facilities on bird populations and migrating behaviour and flyways are immaterial. This position is often based on studies which purport to demonstrate that the number of bird deaths attributable to wind turbine installations is low - both in absolute and relative terms.

     Indeed, this is the position put forward by Brascan/SWEI at its May 12, 2003 and July 20, 2003 public information meetings in Thornbury. At each of those meetings, Brascan/SWEI referred to studies which indicate a mortality rate of about two birds per turbine per year. Brascan/SWEI also pointed out that communications towers kill up to 1,000 birds each per year.

     The Blue Highlands Citizens Coalition is very concerned about the potential impact on local bird populations and migratory behaviour and flyways of the proposed “Blue Highlands” wind power generation facility. Our concerns are centred on two issues.

     First, we believe that the applicability to our community of the alleged “kill” ratio of two birds per turbine tower per year needs to be subjected to careful and credible scientific analysis. In particular, we are concerned that the study areas used in arriving at the two bird “kill” figure per tower per year, which appear to have included arid and desolate sites in the western United States, are not comparable to the area in which the "Blue Highlands” project is proposed to be installed. Second, we believe that the effects of the proposed “Blue Highlands” wind power generation facility on migratory patterns and flyways also need to be subjected to careful and credible scientific analysis.

     Our concerns regarding these issues are echoed by others in eastern North America who are concerned that different climatic and environmental conditions in eastern North America are sufficiently different from those of arid areas in the western United States (where many of the reported North American bird impact studies have been conducted) that meaningful comparisons cannot be made.

     In particular, we note that in a paper published in July of 2003, the New Jersey Audubon Society has stated as follows in respect of wind power development:

•  “The New Jersey Audubon Society and its 20,000 members generally support environmentally responsible renewable energy sources, such as wind power…However, we are concerned about the potential impacts of these developing technologies on wildlife and natural habitats”.

•  “Although several wind power generating facilities are currently operating in the U.S. , almost all are west of the Mississippi , and none to date are sited in coastal or offshore waters, or along ridge tops. Furthermore, most of the existing wind farm sites do not occur along major bird or bat migration routes. To date, only one large-scale facility east of the Mississippi , in West Virginia , is being developed, and it is sited on a north/south oriented ridge top. The largest known single night songbird mortality event occurred at this site on a foggy night during this year's spring migration, providing some insight into potential wildlife impacts”.

•  “These points must be considered when interpreting both the results of previous bird mortality and disturbance studies, and how they may apply to proposed sites in the east. Birds occurring along the Atlantic Flyway are subject to meteorological conditions that are very different from conditions birds experience in the western U.S. , and thus, may have inherently different flight strategies, and behaviour”.

A full copy of the New Jersey Audubon Society's position paper on wind power development is available by clicking here.

     The concerns expressed by the New Jersey Audubon Society are consistent with the position adopted in many areas of Europe , including in Germany , the world's leader in installed wind power capacity. For example, wind power turbine installations are prohibited in certain UNESCO-designated World Biosphere Reserves (we note that the Niagara Escarpment is an example of a Canadian UNESCO-designated World Biosphere Reserve) due to potential adverse impacts on bird populations.

     The United States Department of the Interior Fish and Wildlife Service has also published a summary of concerns and recommendations relative to the Meyersdale Windpower Project. Click here to view the document. Another area of concern that has arisen with some projects is the issue of bat mortality. (click here and scroll down to read an article on wind farms and bat mortality)

     The Blue Highlands Citizens Coalition feels that scientific and credible studies need to be conducted regarding all wildlife (including bird) impacts of the proposed “Blue Highlands” wind power generation facility. Although the Brascan/SWEI environmental screening process will likely include a bird/wildlife impact study, that study will be conducted by a consulting firm selected by, and paid by, Brascan/SWEI. Accordingly, and in light of the concerns expressed by the New Jersey Audubon Society regarding the credibility of existing bird impact studies from the western United States , we feel that an independent study is warranted.

If you have a biology or science background, or have bird watching or wildlife monitoring expertise, and are willing to assist us with an impact study, we would welcome your help. Please join our volunteer list by signing up where indicated on our “Contact Us” page.

Click here to read an article regarding Greenpeace's plans to oppose a particular wind generating facility in Scotland because of the impact on the bird population of the area.

Click here to read an article about the threat to the rare Red Kite in the UK from industrial wind power developments.

Click here to visit the Bat Conservation International "Bats & Wind Energy" page.

Copyright, The Blue Highlands Citizens Coalition, 2004, 2005, 2006.  All rights reserved.


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