Bird Group Wants More Wind Farm Safeguards

In the latest move in the ongoing saga between wind energy development and the American Bird Conservancy (ABC), the group has petitioned the U.S. Department of the Interior to create regulations – instead of voluntary guidelines – around wind development meant to safeguard wildlife.

The nearly 100-page petition [PDF] urges the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to set up a mandatory permit system for wind projects to mitigate the impact on migratory birds. Wind developers not in compliance would be subject to criminal or civil penalties. The government has estimated that 440,000 birds are killed each year by collisions with wind turbines [PDF]. ABC estimates that without enforceable regulations, more than 1 million birds will be killed in the U.S. each year by 2020.

Birds and Wind Turbines

image via Nature Conservancy

ABC says it filed the petition because the voluntary guidelines drafted by the government don’t go far enough in preventing bird deaths. In September, the U.S. Department of the Interior released its latest version of wind energy industry guidelines [PDF]. At the time, ABC adamantly criticized the draft for not doing enough to prevent bird deaths or prosecute those responsible for bird deaths.

The nonprofit group says it supports wind power when it is “bird-smart,” and says a coalition of 60 groups are calling for mandatory standards relating to birds and wind farms. ABC says, too, that 20,000 scientists, ornithologists, conservationists and other concerned citizens have shown their support for mandatory standards for the wind industry.

Earlier this year, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) responded to claims of massive bird deaths from wind-power plants, saying that “wind power is far less harmful to birds than the fossil fuels it displaces” and that “incidental losses of individual birds at turbine sites will always be an extremely small fraction of bird deaths caused by human activiites.”

Kristy Hessman is a writer and native Oregonian who currently resides in California. Before starting her own company, she worked as a reporter covering business and politics for daily newspapers and The Associated Press.

    • The AWEA’s comments are contradictory. If “losses” of birds at turbine sites will always be an “extremely small fraction”, then just how much fossil fuel do turbines in fact displace?

      • thinkpower

        No, the AWEA statement is correct. u00a0The vast majority of birds killed by human activity in the US fly into buildings or are eaten by house cats. However, many birds are killed by toxics from fossil fuel power plants and loss of habitat.

        • But if wind replaces fossil fuel plants, it would then be the major killer, no? It would certainly no longer be an “extremely small fraction”.

        • Tom Stacy

          Hi Michael Goggin of AWEA (again). Real commenters are proud of their
          comments and proud of themselves. We even use our real names instead of
          making up handles to hide our identities.

    • No cats

      Cats should be regulated, all domestic and feral cats.u00a0 Everyone who owns a cat must keep it indoors or pay a hefty fine. u00a0u00a0 There should be open season on all feral cats. nn” Feral and outdoor cats kill hundreds of millions of birds each year. nStudies show vastly variable predation rates, ranging from 5.6 birds nkilled per cat per year to 109.5 kills per cat per year. Multiplying neven the lowest of these rates and using the most conservative figure nfor the number of outdoor and feral cats in the United States (95 nmillion) yields 532 million bird kills annually.”u00a0 Bird Watchers Digest-Nov/Dec 2011