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Wind farm bird kills ‘should be revealed’

Wind farms should be forced to detail eagle, bird and bat deaths and other environmental impacts on a public online register and face tougher controls on the use of independent experts, Australia’s Wind Farm Commissioner has said.

In response to concerns about the impact of wildlife, Commissioner Andrew Dyer said his recommendations for tougher noise monitoring controls should be extended to environmental harm.

Former Greens leader Bob Brown has objected to a wind farm development in Tasmania because of its visual impact and potential to kill eagles and shore birds. Other wind farm projects have killed many birds, particularly raptors.

A spokesman for Dr Brown said he did not wish to comment, and the office of federal

Greens leader Richard Di Natale did not respond to questions.

Wind industry enthusiasts have said more birds are killed by tall buildings, cars and cats.

The use of independent experts to estimate the impact of wind farms on animals has been controversial, with accusations of poor data-handling and the deletion of nesting and sighting records.

Wind farm developments engage experts to estimate the potential impact on wildlife. Post-construction monitoring of existing wind farm developments has often shown that the impact on bird life has been worse than anticipated.

Despite strict guidelines on how bird and animal losses should be offset, critics argue that little has been done to force wind farm companies to act.

Mr Dyer said his recommendations for tougher reporting and reviews of noise issues should also apply to birds.

“Different independent experts should be used before and after projects are commissioned and findings should be properly audited,” he said.

In his latest annual report, the commissioner said the design and approval of a proposed wind farm relies heavily on third-party consultants to prepare a range of reports, including assessments related to noise, visual amenity, shadow flicker, aviation impact and various environmental assessments.

Many of the assessment reports rely on complex calculations or results from predictive computer modelling.

Once the wind farm is built, experts are often re-engaged to carry out post-construction assessments.

These assessment reports use data from the wind farm, but still rely on assumptions and modelling to analyse the collected data.

“It is very common practice that experts engaged to perform the design assessments and reports during the planning phase are the same experts engaged by the developer to perform the post-construction assessments,” Mr Dyer said.

“There is certainly scope for a much better separation between the experts used for the predictive assessments used in the design, versus the experts used for the post-construction assessments of a wind farm, along with the addition of audits of the expert’s work.”