This page contains an article, paper, news item or other source of evidence referred to in The Case Against Windfarms
RENEWABLE ENERGY INDUSTRY ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS
By Andrew Chapman -
Karl Mallon of the Australian Wind Energy Association, on
The impact of wind farms on wildlife is worth mention as the wind industry well knows there have been some disastrous consequences for wildlife. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that the Altamont Pass wind farm in California, constructed around 1970, kills 300 eagles, hawks, kites and other raptors each year and of these 60 are Golden Eagles. It wasnt until the late 1980s and early 1990s that the magnitude of bird kills at wind farms was discovered and this was because monitoring of impact on birds had generally been poor and removal of carcasses by scavengers meant few observations were made of kills. It is standard practice to determine impact by looking at bird kill rates per turbine. The US Fish and Wildlife Services gives bird kill rate estimates in
The Australian Wind Energy Associations response to the
Research by J. Winkleman has shown that resident birds could be affected for distances of between 250-500 metres from turbines with disturbance causing between a 60% and 95% decline in bird usage close to the turbines and that 1.0 megawatt turbines affect larger water birds such as ducks and swans for up to 800 metres. In
The Australian Wind Energy Association says the The U. K. Royal Society for the Protection of Birds supports wind energy but on
"the RSPB recognises that inappropriately sited wind farms can cause problems for birds. It is precisely because of this that since 1998 the society has objected to 26 wind farm proposals (on and offshore) and has raised concerns about a further 29. The RSPB has a partnership with Scottish and Southern Energy plc (SSE) promoting a renewable energy product called RSPB Energy. The income from this is not related to the amount of wind-derived energy. The great majority of the energy comes from hydro schemes. RSPB Energy would still operate if there were no wind farms at all.
The majority of the money we receive from SSE is used to acquire land for nature reserves to compensate for habitats that are being lost to climate change. The remainder funds a handful of small-scale projects generating renewable energy on RSPB reserves, for example solar panels to heat water. These have both a practical and a demonstration value.
The RSPB strongly supports the sustainable development of wind power and other forms of renewable energy as a means of helping to tackle climate change, which we regard as the biggest long-term threat to the environment. The available evidence, from the
Perhaps the Australian Wind Energy Association should let groups who are genuinely interested in nature conservation speak for themselves.
When it was discovered that wind farms in
· During the first week in October 2003 a second eagle was found dead under one of the turbines by the Tarong Energy Site Manager.
At least four months after the first turbine commenced operating and even after the last kill there was no official bird kill monitoring procedure in place. These two eagle kills are known only because members of the public have stumbled across them.
There is now enough information to compare the environmental performance of the wind farms of Starfish Hill and
Evaluations of the bird kills at
The area has a recent history of careful land management and good conservation practice. Commencing in 1978 Shire Councillors, farmers, numerous wildlife conservation organisations including the Australian Conservation Foundation and the Fisheries and Wildlife Division worked together to secure the Bald Hills and Kings Flat Reserves and develop a major wetland for in the Bald Hills Reserve for waterbird conservation.
In 1982 the Fisheries and Wildlife Division wrote that in creating the Bald Hills wetland it would be a wetland of great importance to a wide range of waterbirds. The location is on the flyway used by many species moving between eastern and western Victoria and will attract many birds as it will be one of the few wetlands in this region. And The proposed wetland is close to the Tarwin River and Anderson Inlet; both important feeding grounds for water birds and will create a safe roosting and breeding site, at present, are very scarce in this region.
The Australian Bird Atlas records 280 species of birds for the 1degree grid block covering Bald Hills.
At Bald Hills, Wind Power Pty Ltd propose to construct 52 turbines, more than twice the number at Starfish Hill, with a pylon height of 65 metres and rotor diameter of 82 metres-a similar configuration to Starfish Hill. They will be approximately 110 metres from the ground to the tip of the rotor at its highest point and the maximum power output will be 2.0 megawatt/turbine. Wind Power proposes to place turbines close to and between the three main conservation reserves in the area.
Wind Powers Environmental Effects Statement for the proposed Bald Hills Wind Farm uses a brief and inadequate level of survey and dismisses the impact on threatened species using terms like, only a handful of listed migratory species occurs on the wind farm site. It does not give an accurate picture of migratory species or the presence of raptors, waterbirds or bats nor the risk to those animals. It does however refer to Spine-tailed Swift migration and readily accepts that some would be killed even though these birds are protected by a treaty between
The value of these Reserves is identified in the Department of Sustainabilitys Biodiversity Action Planning for Gippsland Bioregion, Tarwin/Powlett Zone, Jan 2003 Draft that refers to the Bald Hills Wetland Reserve as a Biodiversity Asset of National Significance. The Bioregional Conservation Status of the Bald Hills Reserve is that it contains what is now Depleted and the Kings Flat Reserve contains what is Endangered.
It is clear that the wind farm would be killing particularly vulnerable species of birds on an ongoing regular basis until that species is locally eliminated or if replenished the wider population would suffer reduction. The influence of wind turbines placed so close to the Reserves would mean that some birds will avoid using them even though their significance is well documented.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service have produced the most recent comprehensive document Interim Guidelines to Avoid and Minimize Wildlife Impacts From Wind Turbines, 3 May 2003, follows the examination by scientists of bird kills and disruption to bird habitat and formulated using information from the worldwide scientific community. It contains a series of recommendations for the siting of wind energy facilities that include the following:
· Avoid placing turbines in documented locations of protected species,
· Avoid locating turbines in known local bird migration paths or in areas where birds are highly concentrated. Examples of high concentration areas for birds are wetlands, State refuges, private duck clubs, staging areas, rookeries, roosts and riparian areas alongside streams. Avoid daily movement flyways (eg. between roosting and feeding areas),
· Avoid placing turbines near known bat hibernation, breeding, and maternity/nursery colonies,
· Configure turbine locations to avoid areas or features of the landscape known to attract raptors (hawks, falcons, eagles, owls),
· Configure turbine arrays to avoid potential avian mortality where feasible. For example, group turbines rather than spreading them widely, and orient rows of turbines parallel to known bird movements, thereby decreasing the potential for bird strikes. Implement stormwater management practices that do not create an attraction for birds, and maintain contiguous habitat for area-sensitive species,
· Avoid fragmenting large, contiguous tracts of wildlife habitat. Where practical, place turbines on lands already altered or cultivated and away from areas of intact and healthy native habitats.
When applying these criteria to the proposed Bald Hills wind farm it is hard to imagine how a project could get this far in planning and yet fail so conclusively on so many of the criteria established to minimise bird and bat kills and habitat degradation. The consequence of ignoring these principles can only be a high level of mortality for important and protected species as well as more common ones. The cumulative impact of killing fauna and destroying habitat is already devastating some species as can be seen by reading the list of species in
Wind farms depend on subsidy and when the subsidy goes so will the turbines, except for the large immoveable heavily reinforced concrete foundation blocks left scattered across farms to remind everyone of this foolish folly. In the meantime any wind farms constructed would contribute to an ongoing destruction of our native birds.
Planning is intended to be driven by a strategic analysis however again and again it comes down to a project by project basis as developers bring forward specific proposals for specific parcels of land and strategic arguments are put forward for that project. Strategic planning is intended to be a method of ensuring that cost-effective environmentally sustainable options are pursued, however the concerns about the environmental impact of a wide range of project are not being satisfactorily addressed through the planning process. While Governments espouse the virtues of their environmental assessments as being independent and transparent, the public have seen enough of the process that they now not only lack confidence in the planning process but are cynical about the planning system.
Wind energy is second hand solar energy-that is the wind is derived from the sun heating the earths surface at different rates and times to cause surface air movements. During this process a considerable amount of the energy from solar radiation is lost to other energy sinks so it makes sense to capture solar radiation in the first instance. Using solar radiation to heat hot water systems and generate electricity, as has been done on house roofs throughout
A contributor to global warming is the result of changes to the earths surface that is the widespread removal of vegetative cover in areas critical to climate such as throughout dryer areas of
Clearly there are negative environmental impacts from wind farms and they do not deserve the label green. The use of this misleading promotional jargon should be stopped. Furthermore the industry would have to do a lot more to demonstrate that its behaviour was environmentally responsible. Given the environmental impact of wind farms, particularly compared to solar technology with its economic benefits to
The dominant factor for practical changes will be market forces and these need to be brought to bear. The public at large is currently subsidising impractical wind energy projects, excessive and inefficient electricity users and more effort should now be focused on appropriate commercial arrangements to prevent this happening. Although we already have varied electricity tariffs, peak and off-peak water heating, to extend this type of arrangement would discourage waste, excessive use and provide more incentive, at the household level, to employ supplementary energy alternatives such as solar water heating and power generation.
Andrew is a Consulting Engineer with a private practice who has held senior positions in leading Australian engineering and environmental consultancies. He has provided engineering and environmental services to major corporations in
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