SANDUSKY – Ohio officials lack adequate information on how many birds will be killed by wind turbines built near Lake Erie, three activists told the Register.
It’s possible wind turbine companies are downplaying the number of birds and bats likely to be killed by placing wind turbines in such an important birding area, the activists said on “Bird Nerd,” a new podcast featuring Sandusky Register photographer Jilly Burns. To hear the full podcast, go to sanduskyregister.com/tags/birding.
Burns met with the trio – Amy Bauer, of Bellevue, Deb Hay, of Seneca Anti Wind Union, and Mark Shieldcastle, of Black Swamp Bird Observatory – to discuss planned wind farms in the area. Bauer plans to form an anti-wind power group in Huron County.
They include Republic Wind, a project in Seneca and Sandusky counties planned by Apex Clean Energy.
The Ohio Power Siting Board said the project would cover 35,000 acres of leased land in Adams, Pleasant, Reed, Scipio, and Thompson townships in Seneca County and Green Creek and York townships in Sandusky County.
There would be up to 58 wind turbines that could generate up to 200 megawatts of power, which Republic said is enough energy to power 58,000 homes. The wind blade diameter for each turbine would be 445 feet, as long as a football field including the two end zones, Hay said. Apex would like to break ground this fall, she said.
On the Republic Wind website, Apex said: “Despite claims to the contrary, wind energy projects are far from the most dangerous human-caused threat to birds. Buildings, cars, power lines, and radio and cell phone towers cause far more losses than wind turbines. Housecats kill 2.4 billion birds a year alone.”
Apex continued: “Nonetheless, Apex works hard to minimize avian impacts through responsible siting. We are working in close consultation with federal and state environmental agencies and using appropriate conservation measures to ensure that Republic Wind has no significant effects on bird or bat populations.”
Shieldcastle said his concern is not to oppose wind energy but to focus on where wind farms are appropriate.
“Our real concern is location, location, location,” he said.
Good information on the threat posed by local wind farms on bats and birds is sorely lacking, he said.
Republic ought to carry out a study on songbird migration, raptor nesting and bald eagles, Shieldcastle said. Ottawa, Sandusky, Lucas and Erie counties probably have the densest concentration of bald eagle nests in the world, said Shieldcastle, a former Ohio Division Wildlife employee who developed recovery plans for bald eagles, ospreys and other birds.
It’s difficult to do an accurate count of birds killed by wind turbines, Shieldcastle said. Some tiny birds hit by a blade leave almost nothing to recover. Bird carcasses on the ground are often carried off by predators before they can be counted, he said.
He said two reforms are needed:
• Better wind turbine designs to reduce bird deaths
• Force all wind companies to publicly release bird death statistics.
Transparency is vital, he said.
Hay said wind power companies such as Apex seek the passage of Ohio Senate Bill 238, which would relax setback requirements for wind turbines.
Current law requires a wind turbine to be at least 1,125 feet from any other nearby property. The bill would require 1,125 feet from the tip of the turbine blade to the nearest home, allowing the turbine to be closer to the neighbor’s property than current law allows.
In addition, under the bill, the owner of the nearest parcel of land could waive the setback requirement for a turbine. Under current law, all owners of property near a project must agree to waive the setback rules.
The bill has been assigned to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The measure’s main author is Sen. Matt Dolan, R-Chagrin Falls. Sen. Randy Gardner, R-Bowling Green, is a co-sponsor.