San Diego County Board of Supervisors will vote on a new Wind Energy Ordinance on May 8.
Environmental reviews will still be needed for “Large” turbines, on wind farms, but “small” turbines for residential and small farm use––actually up to 80 feet high––will be “streamlined” with only a “checklist” approach to permitting. The Endangered Habitats League are asking that people email the Board of Supervisors a request that they do everything possible to reduce the number of fatalities that small wind turbines cause birds and bats. (See bottom of the page) There are no accurate figures for the number of animals killed by big or little turbines.
Most studies focus on wind farms and utilize the same 50-60 meter search radius that was applied when turbines were smaller.
Jim Wiegand, of Save the Eagles, sent me the photo at the top of the page with the explanation, “The blades hung out past the search area. They only looked in the cleared/gravel area around the turbine. The turbine in the image is probably killing 1000-1500 birds and bats per year. Sadly, the industry, a University, and the FWS are all helping to cover up this big time killer. They did their searches ‘shortly after sunrise.’ This was before the gulls had a chance to clean up the bats from the night before. The gulls, ravens etc had all day to pick up birds. All day long the Gulls and other scavengers were picking the place clean.
“Searchers looking for bodies actually witnessed two sea gulls getting killed by blades but did not count them as fatalities because they landed outside their little search area. Gulls have different foraging habits than eagles and are not easily hit by turbine blades. This tells me that many, many, other gulls were working the area. Two Ospreys did fall into their little search area and they have to count them. They were probably also scavenging. The two osprey killed could have also actually been attracted to the turbines and been going after wounded birds. They do not just eat fish. I have actually seen them grab baby ducks straying a little too far from their mother’s side and grabbing bullfrog tad poles from ponds. The study with a proper search area should have shown 500-600 fatalities per MW/per year.”
Apologists for the wind industry like to point out that, every year, far more birds are eaten by cats or die after crashing into windows. However these are usually not raptors. Wiegand believes that as a direct consequence of the proliferation of wind farms, America’s golden eagle population is on the verge of extinction.
He also believes that it is possible to build a more bird friendly turbine. Unfortunately the design he endorses, the FloDesign Wind Turbine, is not yet ready for the market.
Wiegand also had some disturbing comments about some of the older wind turbines, from sites like the infamous Altamont pass, that are being replaced by newer and supposedly safer models. They are being refurbished and resold to private individuals. As most have 80 ft towers, they would not be subject to anything more than a checklist inspection under San Diego’s new Wind Energy Ordinance .
“The are being recycled and will be killing protected species on private property,” Wiegand wrote. “If the new turbines are safer as the industry claims why are these (old) turbines put back into service so they can keep on killing? If wind projects originally required environmental impact analysis to put these turbines in, then it should apply to all these killers for all future installations. But instead we have an industry with voluntary regulations and no oversight. These old turbines are even being sold on Ebay. I can show you dozens of examples…”
He is not the only one to point out that small wind turbines can be lethal. A recent study from Stirling University, in the UK, found that small turbines decimated 54% of the neighbouring bat population. The survey was carried out on 20 carefully chosen sites.
The leader of Stirling’s research team concluded, “Based on our results, we recommend that turbines are sited at least 20 meters away from potentially valuable bat habitat. This will help us to maximize the benefits of renewable energy generation whilst minimizing potentially adverse effects on wildlife.”
In San Diego, the Endangered Habitats League worked with a consulting biologist, County staff, the wildlife agencies, and the Planning Commission to incorporate several important safeguards into the draft ordinance. These include siting away from raptor nests, streams and ridgelines, and structural conditions like eliminating perching opportunities. However, we also urge that an “environmentally superior” alternative be adopted that allows only a single turbine–-enough for the great majority of residential users––on a “checklist” basis rather than the three allowable as proposed.
They also sent the following request:
Please email the Board of Supervisors prior to May 8, 2013. Please also attend the hearing, if possible, which will start at 9 AM. A sample message is below that can be personalized. CLICK HERE and then copy and paste the subject and text. Send it to all the Supervisors and land use aides.
RE: Wind Energy Ordinance (Item 1, May 8, 2013)
Dear Chairman Cox and Members of the Board
As you consider “small” wind turbines, please do all that is possible to reduce bird and bat strikes. I support the protective conditions contained in the draft proposal, but also ask that the number of small turbines be kept at the current single turbine per parcel. These are all feasible measures.
Due to the impacts to wildlife from wind turbines, I encourage regulatory streamlining for solar panels as the best option.
Thank you and please pass along!