TYBEE ISLAND, GA – There are lingering questions after Monday night’s town hall meeting discussing a proposed wind turbine on Tybee Island, including whether it could kill endangered birds.
The proposed turbine would be placed at the Waste Water Treatment Plant. But Timothy Keyes with the Department of Natural Resources told Tybee’s City Council that the location could threaten endangered wildlife, specifically Piping Plover.
“If you look at the sighting, if you look at the federally designated critical habitat of the Piping Plover, it basically surrounds the proposed site on three sides,” said Keyes.
Tybee is also home to nests of Red Knots, which may be added to the endangered list later this year. Studies show large scale turbines kill almost two birds per year, and with only 120 adult Piping Plover in America today, Keyes says losing even one is too many. But the proposed turbine is of the smaller variety, it is only as tall as Tybee’s water tower and light house. And it has slowly turning blades which proponents say are not likely to kill any birds.
A wind turbine generally kills birds not through collisions but suffocation. The blades act like airplane wings and they create high and low air pressure fields. The birds fly into the pressure fields and are deprived of oxygen.
Tybee is on the Atlantic fly way and it hosts large migrations of birds in certain seasons. One local bird watcher has a suggestion.
“I would suggest we simply monitor it, and if there are any problems, as you suggest, we close it down. I’m glad to hear we can close it down for a brief period of time,” he said.
The turbine is a gift from an international corporation which wishes to remain unnamed. If approved, the plan is to use the turbine to help power the plant. The city only has to pay for its transportation and installation. If all goes according to plan, it could save at least $400,000 over 20 years.
Tybee Island City Councilman Paul Wolff says it would be great for the city.
“Wind and solar are long term our best options for making the transition from burning fossil fuels to having clean sustainable energy,” said Wolff.