Wind farms and migratory birds

Issue of wind farms and actual or possible threats to migratory birds is of interest to me, partly as I've been asked about a very few wind farm projects in China; one - already built - is right beside a wetland reserve on the north coast of the Bohai. It lies on the coastal flyway; the developer has permission to build more turbines within the reserve (!)

Large birds that soar at least sometimes are among the migrants passing by, stopping over or even breeding in the area: some are very rare, including Siberian and red-crowned cranes, Oriental stork, white-tailed eagle...

- I've also been told of wind farms by a couple of other major wetland sites on China coast, in Hainan and Fujian. A whole lot more wind farms are being built and planned for China. What of EIAs? - I've seen some info that was far from impressive: blithely suggesting that, conveniently, birds migrate above turbine blade heights. Maybe even this much info in an EIA, or EIA of any sort, was unusual.

Intriguing issue. Are these wind farms likely to cause trouble? Hard to find info on wind farms really causing major issues for birds, but Altamont in California an infamous classic example, bashing many golden eagles to death.

Then, what of value of these wind farms?

China needs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions more than perhaps anywhere; yet I've heard of many turbines not even being connected to grid - the money for at least some projects stems from building them, never mind if operating. See Beyond the Numbers: A Closer Look at China’s Wind Power Success, from Worldwatch.

Plus, building wind farms might look like taking action against global warming, and never mind absurd and dangerous, and rising, levels of energy usage.

I aim to post some info on wind farms and widlife, especially related to migratory birds, here.

Conference on wildlife and wind farms

Conference on wind energy and wildlife impacts was held in Norway last month; chiefly info from Europe.

Just had a look at various ppt files, which you can download via the link.

Interesting, tho some scary uses of statistics - more like this is nuclear physics! (Maybe I'm cynical partly as a former physical chemistry lecturer of mine was fond of saying there are lies, damned lies, and statistics; but such statistics can look very impressive, yet whether of major value harder to say.) Also, there's money in this; and might wonder if this has impact on some wind farm and wildlife results [not evident in these ppts on quick read], given wind farm developers may be key research funders,

 

Martin Williams

Comments

Interesting newspaper article includes:

[quote]'The placement of wind farms is a critical element in protecting wildlife, she said. For example, farms shouldn't be placed near wetlands or riparian areas or in the flight pathways of birds, the Laramie Boomerang reported (http://bit.ly/uySlQS).
Erik Molvar, a wildlife biologist with Biodiversity Conservation Alliance, agreed that appropriate siting could go a long way toward avoiding wildlife conflicts.

He's hoping the conservation and wildlife management communities can learn from mistakes made during the early years of the state's oil and gas development.

"You need to get in before (development) starts, or it's very difficult to guide development in any meaningful way," he said.[/quote]

Scientists: Wind farms tough on birds

Yesterday's South China Morning Post had short news item:
Administrator of Linghai reserve had been reinstated; after region's authorities reassigned him following him fining two state-owned firms for building a wind farm that reduced reserve area by 7,000ha.
- I'd previously seen map of Linghai area, including part showing wind farm right within heart of the reserve.

linghai

A longer item on this appeared on Wind Power Monthly website, August 2012. Started:

China Guodian Group last month escaped a CNY 5.59 million ($879,639) fine for building a wind farm in a protected wetland, with the official who imposed the penalty removed from his post. The utility's Hefeng Wind Power Development subsidiary was originally hit with the fine in June after a swan was killed flying into its Linghai wind farm in Liaoning province.

Official sidelined for fining wetlands developer

 

From Birdwatching Daily:

Scientists who estimate how many birds are killed by wind turbines each year must factor in several variables: Dead birds can be difficult to find or are carried away by scavengers; search efforts vary from wind farm to wind farm; and power companies often keep fatality data confidential.

The most recent number, published by analyst K. Shawn Smallwood in the March 2013 issue of the Wildlife Society Bulletin, is the highest to date.

He estimates that in 2012 turbines across the United States killed 573,000 birds, including 83,000 raptors. The number of bats killed, he reports, was even higher: 888,000.

New study estimates 573,000 birds died at wind farms last year

I've also found this, tho seems no results as yet:

Will Painting Wind Turbine Blades Minimise Bird Collisions?

 

From BBC:

A huge US energy supplier has agreed to pay out $1m (£620,000) over the deaths of golden eagles at two wind farms.

Duke Energy Renewables agreed to the sum after pleading guilty to charges over the deaths of 14 eagles in the past three years at the Wyoming site.

It is the first time the Obama administration has taken action against a wind energy company in such a case, the AP news agency report.

The fines will go to wildlife and wetlands conservation bodies.

US firm Duke Energy pays out over wind farm eagle deaths

 

Article in San Jose Mercury News includes:

recent studies suggest up to twice as many birds are killed every year at the Altamont Wind Resource Area (AWRA) than previously indicated by official estimates. Independent researcher Shawn Smallwood, head of ongoing mortality surveys in the Sand Hill area and other parts of the Altamont, estimates 10,000 birds are killed each year. It's particularly dangerous for golden eagles; about 60 die annually, he says,
...

Since 2012, Smallwood and his team have been studying flight behavior and counting dead birds every four days for wind energy company Ogin Inc. The company is seeking Alameda County's approval to install 40 of its "shrouded" turbines in the Sand Hill area to test its theory that the turbine's unique design will help prevent golden eagles, red-tailed hawks and other species from colliding with the blades, hopefully reducing deaths.

The key is the shroud -- two concentric covers around the blades -- which the company says not only make them more efficient than older turbines, but also less accessible to approaching birds and bats. At less than 200 feet, they're shorter and smaller than most "next-gen" turbines, which can reach almost 500 feet.

"It's a visual and physical obstacle that, in theory, will prevent birds from flying into the rotor zone," explained John Howe, Ogin's vice president of public and environmental affairs.

The three-year avian impact study could influence how conventional turbines are phased out from the Altamont and elsewhere.

'Bird-friendly' turbines on Altamont Pass sought by researchers, energy companies

 

 

From Birdwatching Daily:

Scientists who estimate how many birds are killed by wind turbines each year must factor in several variables: Dead birds can be difficult to find or are carried away by scavengers; search efforts vary from wind farm to wind farm; and power companies often keep fatality data confidential.

The most recent number, published by analyst K. Shawn Smallwood in the March 2013 issue of the Wildlife Society Bulletin, is the highest to date.

He estimates that in 2012 turbines across the United States killed 573,000 birds, including 83,000 raptors. The number of bats killed, he reports, was even higher: 888,000.

New study estimates 573,000 birds died at wind farms last year

I've also found this, tho seems no results as yet:

Will Painting Wind Turbine Blades Minimise Bird Collisions?

 

from Grist:

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced in December that it will issue 30-year “take” permits that allow wind farms to inadvertently kill bald and golden eagles, provided they use “advanced conservation practices” to limit the number of deaths. Previously the permits were issued for only up to five years.

This week, the American Bird Conservancy said it will sue the federal government over the permits.

Bird lovers to sue feds for letting wind farms kill eagles

also, from Birdlife International:

The growing energy demand together with the urgently needed transition to clean and safe energy has led to more than five million kilometres of new power lines being planned to support the renewable energy development in the region in Africa over a period of five years. Despite the good intentions of these policies, wrongly situated and designed energy projects can be disastrous for the soaring migrants. For example, the Port Sudan power line – known as the “killer line” – led to the electrocution of hundreds and perhaps thousands of endangered Egyptian Vultures before being decommissioned.

Cumulative impacts from series of misplaced wind energy farms along the flyway could jeopardise the sustainability of a whole population. Conservation therefore has an important opportunity to be proactive instead of reactive by ensuring that birds are being fully considered and integrated in the planning process.

The dangers are worse for migratory soaring birds. These species use hot air currents to fly so that they can glide ahead without constantly flapping their wings. As a result, they are bound to migrate over land areas, thus creating a few crucial bottle neck passages (like the Red Sea area) on their migration route – a sort of traffic jam of birds flying through narrow corridors of sky. As a result, the impact of incautious energy development is further amplified.

http://www.birdlife.org/europe-and-central-asia/news/migrating-through-e...

The construction of a wind farm in Sutherland led to an 80% drop in the number of golden plovers in the area, according to a five-year study.
http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-36048939

U.S. wildlife managers on Wednesday again proposed granting 30-year permits to wind farms that would forgive them for thousands of eagle deaths expected during that time frame from collisions of the birds with turbines, towers and electrical wires.
...
The number of eagles killed each year at wind facilities is not precisely known, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service. An estimated 545 golden eagles are thought to perish annually from collisions with obstacles ranging from turbines to vehicles, the agency said.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/u-s-proposes-giving-wind-farms...