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Death by a thousand blades  

Credit:  25 June 2019, BirdLife Tasmania ~~

A boom in the number of wind farms proposed for Tasmania is posing massive risks for already Endangered species of birds, Birdlife Tasmania warned today.

“With at least 10 new wind farms either proposed or under construction, more than 500 extra turbines could be spinning over the Tasmanian landscape in the next few years” Birdlife Tasmania Convenor Dr Eric Woehler said.

“Add to all these turbines the associated infrastructure such as transmission lines and towers, and the cumulative web of bird hazards escalates dramatically.”

“Tasmania, like the rest of the world, needs a truly sustainable future if it is to make the most of its economic assets. Wind projects that create death traps for our birds should not be part of that future.”

The wind farms (listed below) would be built on Tasmania’s west coast, across much of the far northwest coast, parts of the Central Plateau, and in the northeast. They add to existing wind farms already recorded as taking a deadly toll, particularly of Wedge-tailed Eagles.

“BirdLife Tasmania supports renewable energy, which is vital to address the climate emergency” Dr Woehler said. “But just because a project is offering renewable energy, it should not get a free pass to kill Endangered species.

“The time has come when there needs to be urgent consideration of the cumulative impacts of so many wind projects on birds in Tasmania,” Dr Woehler said. “What is missing is a holistic, strategy for windfarms in Tasmania that includes critical no-go areas” he added.

The most worrying project is the looming largest wind farm in the Southern Hemisphere on Robbins Island in the far northwest of Tasmania, which would force radical changes in the surrounding ecosystem.

“When built, its turbines will threaten migratory Arctic shorebirds, some already listed as Critically Endangered, that make the Robbins Passage-Boullanger Bay wetland complex their southern summer home,” he said. “The island is used by migrating Orange-bellied Parrots. Much of the 9,900ha island will be covered by the wind farm.

To reach the island for construction, a causeway and bridge system would be built over 1.4 km of free-flowing tidal wetlands.

These wetlands are the summer home to more than 10,000 migratory shorebirds. The Robbins Passage-Boullanger Bay wetland complex is the most important site for shorebirds in Tasmania, supporting more shorebirds than the rest of the State combined. It is a critical site in a global flyway that stretches from Australia through eastern Asia to north of the Arctic Circle in Siberia.

“It is an amazing spectacle to see flocks of these far-flying birds at home in this still unspoilt sea country,” Dr Woehler said.

“The Robbins Passage-Boullanger Bay wetlands complex has been repeatedly assessed as being of global importance,” he said. “It was assessed as clearly holding values that made it eligible to be listed under the international Ramsar Convention to protect wetlands of international significance. But this protection was denied after a campaign by local opponents”.

Despite this setback, the area has been listed as an Important Bird Area in a worldwide network recognised by BirdLife International and the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature), at a time when migratory shorebird populations have begun to crash on the East Asian-Australasian Flyway.

“This makes this Tasmanian refuge even more important as a barometer of how many birds are strong enough to make it to the far southern extent of the flyway.” Surveys by BirdLife Tasmania have tracked these numbers and their trends for more than 20 years.

“Our surveys show that the numbers of Eastern Curlew and Curlew Sandpiper in Tasmania have decreased catastrophically over that time. Our data has helped list both of these birds as Critically Endangered in Australia” Dr Woehler said.

Another three wind farms are planned along the northwest coast at Jim’s Plain, Western Plains at Stanley and Port Latta, as farmers seek further revenue streams. South of these, investigations are underway into wind farms at Hellyer and Guildford – remote from towns – but not from eagles. Another investigation is under way at St Patrick’s Plains on the Central Plateau, close to the Cattle Hill Wind Farm which is under construction.

The combination of turbines with more high tension transmission lines will pose a massively increased threat to Wedge-tailed Eagles, whose known deaths are growing across the existing network.

Just last year, TasNetworks alone reported that 29 Wedge-tailed Eagles were killed on its power lines. “Many other eagle deaths and injuries – reported and unreported – have happened at existing wind farms, and on power lines around the state,” Dr Woehler added.

“Where is the wind farm strategy for Tasmania? Where are the sensitive and critical no-go areas for windfarms in Tasmania? Unless and until we have a strategy and make every effort to protect our wildlife from wind farms, the constant mortality of eagles and other birds undermines any claims of ‘sustainability’ by the renewable energy sector” Dr Woehler concluded.

List of wind projects proposed or under construction in Tasmania, as of June 2019:

  1. Granville Harbour – under construction, 31 turbines [https://granvilleharbourwindfarm.com.au/]
  2. Guildford – up to 80 turbines [https://epuron.com.au/]
  3. Hellyer – up to 40 turbines [https://epuron.com.au/]
  4. Lake Echo/Cattle Hill – under construction, 48 turbines [https://cattlehillwindfarm.com/]
  5. Low Head – approved – 14 turbines [https://www.lowheadwindfarm.com.au/]
  6. Port Latta – approved – 14 turbines [http://portlattawindfarm.com.au/]
  7. Robbins Island + Jims Plains – c.150 turbines [https://robbinsislandwindfarm.com/]
  8. Rushy Lagoon/Waterhouse, under investigation, 50 – 100 turbines
  9. St Patrick’s Plains – up to 80 turbines [https://epuron.com.au/]
  10. Western Plains (Stanley) – 13 turbines [https://epuron.com.au/wind/stanley-wind-farm/]

Media:
Dr Eric Woehler, Convenor BirdLife Tasmania 0438 204 565

Source:  25 June 2019, BirdLife Tasmania

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

The copyright of this article resides with the author or publisher indicated. As part of its noncommercial effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations. Send requests to excerpt, general inquiries, and comments to query/wind-watch.org.

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