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Power company disputes Macarthur wind farm bird kill figures

Energy generator AGL has denied claims its Macarthur wind farm is killing more than 1400 birds a year – and puts the toll at just 64.

The company defended its record in response to concerns raised by Darlington farmer and wind farm opponent Hamish Cumming about scientific monitoring figures.

Mr Cumming quoted from AGL’s recently-released report on bat and avifauna mortality which showed an estimated 75 bird fatalities at the farm between March 2013 to February 2014, with raptors representing 30 per cent of the toll.

Annual bird mortality was estimated at 10.19 per turbine while the bat toll was put at 1.42.

Using the total 140 turbines, Mr Cumming estimated 1426 birds were killed annually and called for the company to install radar technology which would switch off turbines when birds were detected.

However, AGL told The Standard the more accurate toll was 64, which it considered not unusually high, and there was no significant impact on threatened species.

The report said dead birds included an endangered black falcon and a fork-tailed swift, but AGL said most were common, widespread species like magpies.

Mr Cumming said he had asked Moyne Shire Council to force AGL to shut down the most deadly turbines until better monitoring was implemented.

According to an AGL spokeswoman, the report, prepared by Australian Ecological Research Services, indicated the effects on threatened species were likely to have been negligible.

“Mortalities equate to an average 1.3 birds per turbine per annum, which is considered below collision rates when compared to other wind farms,” she said.

“AGL commissioned ecology and heritage consultant Biosis to conduct an independent review of the bat and avifauna mortality report.

“Biosis found that the collision mortality rates at Macarthur wind farm are ‘not high relative to other wind farms’.” Key findings of the monitoring research found no brolga deaths and the protected species had successfully bred on the wind farm and continued to return to the site.

Bat fatalities were found at six of the 48 turbines used for carcase searches, but none were threatened species.

The report said birds of prey may be at higher risk of collision with turbines because of the altitude at which they flew, behaviour and time spent in the air.