There are those who don’t like wind farms because of the unsightly tall turbines that are erected. There are those who don’t like wind farms because larger groups of the wind turbines can require new electric transmission lines to be constructed, which also are unsightly and controversial.
The latest strike against wind farms came this past week when the United States Fish and Wildlife Service said wind turbines are the latest serious threat against whooping cranes. Whooping cranes are protected by the federal Endangered Species Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty.
“Basically, you can overlay the strongest, best areas for wind turbine development with the whooping crane migration corridor,” Fish and Wildlife whooping crane coordinator Tom Stehn said in an Associated Press story this past week.
The Fish and Wildlife Service estimates as many as 40,000 turbines may be erected in the U.S. Section of the whooping crane’s 200-mile wide migration corridor from Canada to Texas.
“Even if they avoid killing the cranes, the wind farms would be taking hundreds of square miles of migration stopover habitat away from the cranes,” Stehn added.
American Wind Energy Association manager of siting policy Laurie Jodziewicz said its 1,400 members don’t want their turbines, power lines, transmission towers and roadways to hurt the cranes. But she added the industry will continue to grow in the bird’s migration corridor and should not be subject to regulations that don’t apply to other industries.
“It’s a very windy area,” she said. “We certainly want to work toward minimizing impacts, but there is a real driver behind wind energy, which is the need for clean, renewable electricity.”
Down to about 15 in 1941, whooping cranes now number about 266 thanks to the legislative protection. Cranes fly between 500 and 5,000 feet in the air, so the wind turbines only are an issue when the birds land or take off, as they stop every night.
The United States Department of the Interior has named a Wind Turbine Advisory Committee to make recommendations to minimize wind farm impacts on wildlife and habitat. This group was to have its first public meeting this past Thursday in Washington, D.C.
The fact that industry and wildlife officials are talking about this matter is a good thing. Through ongoing dialogue, maybe legitimate solutions can come forward to protect the birds, while also capitalizing on a growing renewable fuel.
2 March 2008
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