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Wind Turbine Effects on Birds and Bats Hearing

Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife and Oceans Oversight Hearing on “Gone with the Wind: Impacts of Wind Turbines on Birds and Bats”   Tuesday, May 1, 2007 10:00 AM

The following is part of the testimony of Mr. Michael Daulton, Director of Conservation Policy, National Audubon Society

It should be noted that Mr Daulton is for wind power but stresses the importance that is being overlooked in being overly zealous; the wildlife effects.

Planned Expansion of Largely Unregulated Wind Power Raises Conservation Concerns

Audubon is concerned about the potential cumulative effects of wind power on species  populations if the wind industry expands dramatically.  Significant development is being considered in areas that contain large numbers of species or are believed to be major migratory flyways, such as the Prairie Pothole region and the Texas Gulf Coast.

Wind energy facilities can have detrimental impacts on birds, bats, and other wildlife in four fundamental ways:
1. Collision mortality
2. Loss or degradation of habitat
3. Disturbance and subsequent displacement from habitat
4. Disruption of ecological links
 
1:  Collision mortality:
Collision mortality occurs when animals collide with the moving turbine blades, with the turbine tower, or with associated infrastructure such as overhead power lines. Impacts vary depending upon region, topography, weather, time of day, and other factors. Several recent publications have reported that collision mortality is relatively low, e.g., a 2005 Government Accountability Office report concluded, “it does not appear that wind power is responsible for a significant number of bird deaths.” That same report, however, noted that mortality can be alarmingly high in some locations. It also pointed out that there are vast gaps in the mortality data, and that the record may be biased because most of the information collected thus far has come from the West where collision mortality appears to be lower than in other regions, such as the Appalachians.
Currently, collision mortality is being assessed at only a small minority of the wind energy facilities in the country. In some regions, it has not been assessed at all.

2:  Loss or degradation of habitat:
Development of wind power facilities results in destruction of habitat from support roads, storage and maintenance yards, turbine towers, and associated infrastructure. It may involve blasting and excavation to bury power lines. Such activity may cause contiguous blocks of habitat to become fragmented, leading to increased abundance of predators, parasites, and
invasive species. This may not be a problem where native habitats have already been disturbed,  such as agricultural areas, but it can have substantial impacts if the wind energy facilities are sited in areas of pristine or rare native habitats.
 
3:  Disturbance and subsequent displacement from habitat:
The impacts of wind energy facilities extend well beyond the footprint of the roads, power lines, and other structures.  Disturbance from human activity and turbines may displace animals from the habitat. While this is seldom lethal, it may cause birds and other animals to abandon preferred habitat and seek lower-quality habitat elsewhere, where disturbance is less. This may result in reduced survival or reduced breeding productivity, which may cause lower or declining populations.

It appears that some birds, such as prairie grouse and other grassland birds, avoid places with tall structures. These species are adapted to open habitats where raptor predation is a major source of mortality. Tall structures in such habitats give raptors an advantage by serving as perching sites, allowing them to survey the landscape in search of prey. Some ornithologists believe prey species, such as Greater Sage-grouse and prairie chickens, are behaviorally programmed to perceive tall structures as a threat, and therefore avoid using habitats where tall structures exist. In cases where the birds affected are already in decline, the turbines could push them closer to extinction.

4:  Disruption of ecological links:
Large wind energy facilities may interfere with the ability of birds and other wildlife to travel between feeding, wintering, and nesting sites. Alternatively, they may cause birds to make longer or higher flights between such areas. This results in higher metabolic costs, and therefore may reduce survival and reproduction.

Read more here.

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