Massive Bird Kill At US Wind Farm

Photo: WN

November 2011: With the deaths of nearly 500 birds at the Laurel Mountain
wind facility recently, three of the four wind farms operating in West Virginia
have now experienced large bird fatality events, according to American Bird Conservancy (ABC).

DEADLY: Wind farms kill thousands of

‘Wind energy has the potential to be a green energy source, but the industry
still needs to embrace simple, bird-smart principles that would dramatically
reduce incidents across the country, such as those that have occurred in West
Virginia,’ said Kelly Fuller, ABC’s wind campaign

Lights can leave birds fatally
There were three critical circumstances that
tragically aligned in each of the three West Virginia events to kill these
birds. Each occurred during bird migration season, during low visibility weather
conditions, and with the addition of a deadly triggering element – an artificial
light source. Steady-burning lights have been shown to attract and disorient
birds, particularly night-migrating songbirds that navigate by starlight, and
especially during nights where visibility is low such as in fog or inclement
weather. Circling birds collide with structures or each other, or drop to the
ground from exhaustion.

At the Laurel Mountain facility in the Allegheny
Mountains, almost 500 birds were reportedly killed after lights were left on at
an electrical substation associated with the wind project. The deaths are said
to have occurred not from collisions with the wind turbines themselves, but from
a combination of collisions with the substation and apparent exhaustion as birds
caught in the light’s glare circled in mass confusion.

More than
2,000 golden eagles killed
At the end of September, at the Mount
Storm facility in the Allegheny Mountains, 59 birds and two bats were killed in
one evening. Thirty of the dead birds were found near a single wind turbine that
was reported to have had internal lighting left on overnight. This incident
stands in stark contrast to industry assertions that just two birds per year are
killed on average by each turbine. Data from Altamont Pass, California wind
farms – the most studied in the nation – suggest that more than 2,000 golden
eagles alone have been killed there.

‘The good news is that it shouldn’t
be hard to make changes that will keep these sorts of unnecessary deaths from
happening again, but it’s disturbing that they happened at all. It has long been
known that many birds navigate by the stars at night, that they normally fly
lower during bad weather conditions, and that artificial light can draw them off
course and lead to fatal collision events.

Banning night-time operations seems to work
A fourth wind
farm in West Virginia, the Beech Ridge Wind Energy Project in Greenbrier County,
has not experienced large mortality events, probably because it is banned from
operating during nighttime between April 1 and November 15.

‘Some West
Virginia conservation groups have suggested that other wind farms in the state
should shut down their wind turbines at certain times and seasons to protect
birds. Given the recurring bird-kill problems, that idea needs to be seriously
considered, at least during migration season on nights where low visibility is
predicted. A wind farm in Texas is doing just that, so it is possible,’ said


~ by narhvalur on November 4, 2011.

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