As power generation schemes go, I have mixed feelings about wind farms. Obviously they have huge advantages over fossil fuel-powered plants. They also don’t involve damming rivers. But they are not without impacts – they tend to be death traps for birds, and they are visually unappealing.
There will always be trade-offs, and given how serious an issue climate change is I am probably willing to tolerate compromises that I would otherwise consider totally unacceptable (nuclear power being one such). But the spirit of compromise is to find the best way to balance various competing ideas. It’s quite different when you are faced with one of the worst possible scenarios. Plans to construct a wind farm in Guayanilla, Puerto Rico seems to be one of the latter. Not only is it located in prime habitat for a federally listed endangered species (Caprimulgus noctitherus, the Puerto Rican nightjar), it also intrudes into high quality dry forest immediately adjacent to Guánica Forest, the most important remaining tract of dry forest in Puerto Rico.
Having looked at the Environmental Impact Statement I am also shocked at the quality of it. Not only do the authors appear to know nothing about dry forest ecology, there’s also a cheerleading quality about it. I’ve done environmental impact work, and yes, you feel some pressure to look out for the interests of the people who are paying you. But it isn’t in anyone’s interest to produce a bad product. The “reforestation plan” (starts on p. 25) also seems awfully unrealistic.
* BirdLife International: Windfarm permit “seriously contradicts” Endangered Species Act.
* Online petition asking Puerto Rican Governor Aníbal Acevedo Vilá to protect the site.
* Species-area curves – when they get the get the most basic biology so badly wrong, you tend to lose confidence in what they have to say rather rapidly.
10 July 2007
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