Update: Pine Tree Wind Farm

Posted by ardeidae on March 23, 2005

A previous post covered an article concerning the development of the Pine Tree Wind Farm near Mojave, California and the lack of research being done by the California Department of Water and Power to determine the effect the wind farm will have on migrating songbirds. A quote in the article raises an interesting point.

“Wind turbine owners are not doing enough to mitigate bird and bat mortality,” says K. Shawn Smallwood, an independent ecologist specializing in minimizing bird kills on wind farms who worked on the Pine Tree draft EIR. “What the wind industry is doing right now is denying there’s a problem,” he says. “That’s too bad, because there’s a way to make wind power truly green. They just won’t do it.”

I received an email where Garry George, First Vice President and Conservation Chair at the Los Angeles Audubon Society, addressed the question “What should be done to make wind power truly green?”.

He means that the wind industry wants to put up the farms as fast and cheap as possible and they aren’t taking the time to do the studies to find out what would make them impact less on birds. For instance, how high should the turbines be? Should they be covered in some way? Should they be turned off during certain periods like during migration? Or at dawn? Should the turbines be made of different materials? Those kinds of things would mitigate some of the impact, but those studies are costly and take time, so the power agencies and the wind developers try to act like there is no impact on birds so that they don’t have to do the studies, and they don’t have to take measures to mitigate the impact.

“Truly green” wind power means not destroying the environment or its inhabitants in the process of generating the power. One of the problems with generating wind power is that its key requirement is…wind, the same thing birds rely on for their migration. It may be difficult (and costly) to find a solution to make wind power as green as possible, but it’s the responsibility of those who want to generate the power to make sure they are studying every aspect and taking every measure to minimize the destruction of life.

George’s email continued:

There was a study by the California State Energy Commission on the Altamont wind farms in N. California. It was a four year study and concluded that there was a lot more avian mortality than predicted and gave recommendations for mitigation. Unfortunately, that study wasn’t cited in the Pine Tree EIR.

George is trying to arrange for the Ojai biologist who authored the study to testify as an expert at the DWP Commissioner’s meeting around April 19 when they vote to accept or deny the Environmental Impact Report. Like George said in the LA Weekly article, “We don’t object to wind power in general; we just want them to do all the studies.”

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