July 25, 2009

Racine hosts national conference on wind energy and migratory birds

The Johnson Foundation recently hosted 30 top wildlife scientists who are committed to study the impact of wind energy on the migratory patterns of birds and bats.

Here's a release from the national conference, which was held at Windspread:
Scientists to Investigate Impacts of Wind Energy on Migratory Wildlife
Industry and conservation representatives set research priorities

Thirty top wildlife scientists have announced agreement on some of the highest research priorities to help America’s rapidly growing wind energy industry produce much-needed alternative energy—while also providing safe passage for birds and bats. This coalition of scientists from industry, government, nongovernmental organizations, and universities met recently in Racine, Wisconsin, to address unanswered questions about how continued wind energy development will affect migrating birds and bats. The meeting was hosted by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the American Bird Conservancy, and The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread.

“We see great potential in wind energy for addressing global climate change and reducing America’s reliance on fossil fuels,” said Dr. Michael Fry of the American Bird Conservancy. “It’s critical we act now to understand the interactions between wind energy installations and birds and bats.”

“Billions of birds migrate annually, taking advantage of the same wind currents that are most beneficial for producing wind energy,” said Dr. Andrew Farnsworth of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. “We know that in some locations a small percentage of wind turbines may cause the majority of bird and bat deaths. For example, Altamont Pass, east of Oakland, Calif., is an extreme case: in an area used regularly by migrant and resident raptors, only a fraction of the 5,000 turbines are responsible for most of the raptor deaths annually. As wind power develops further, we need to know more about how placement, design, and operation impact birds and bats as well as how habitat and weather conditions affect potential hazards.”

The scientists addressed some of the critical information that could be collected using cutting-edge tools such as weather surveillance radar, thermal imaging, and microphones directed skyward to map migrations by day and night. New research will build upon monitoring and research studies of birds and bats before and after construction of existing wind energy facilities as well as work done by other researchers. The coalition appointed working groups to move this new research agenda forward. Top research priorities identified by the coalition include:
  • Studying bird and bat behaviors, and more accurately estimating mortality at existing wind turbines
  • Using current and newly-obtained information on bird and bat population numbers and distribution to focus research on critically important migratory routes and timing
  • Documenting how interactions of birds and bats with turbines are affected by factors such as weather, topography, and their distribution within airspace swept by wind turbine blades
  • Establish standardized methods for pre- and post-construction studies for assessing bird and bat behavior at wind facilities
  • Conduct research on best practices for mitigating the impacts of wind energy development on birds and bats
“Conducting this research will help the wind industry make informed, science-based decisions about where future wind energy projects can be built, and how they can be operated to minimize the impact on migrating wildlife, while still providing much-needed alternative energy,” said Dr. John Fitzpatrick, director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. “It will also help flesh out specific guidelines for wind farm construction being developed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.”

“Imagine if a similar effort had taken place at the turn of the 20th century with the auto industry and air quality,” said Kraig Butrum, President and CEO of the American Wind Wildlife Institute, an umbrella organization for the wind energy industry and environmental groups.

“We’d probably be in a completely different place when it comes to global climate change and energy dependence, because we considered environmental impact from the start.”


  1. Prof. Firefly7/27/2009 2:48 PM

    It's always something, isn't it?

  2. I wonder if the RCEDC is going to attend this one. They took a pass on the last big conference.

  3. Once again the hyper-privileged classes whose members convene at "Whitebread" have revealed their utter lack of compassion for ordinary humanity. In the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, our elitists are worrying about the fate of migratory birds. Until our government lifts every citizen out of poverty and builds a social safety net for our people, the welfare of our feathered friends should be a low priority. Sad to say, our richie-poo exploiters under-value human beings and cherish the avian kingdom. Right before the French Revolution, Marie Antoinette's clique possessed the same attitudes and preferences. Back in the seventeen-eighties, the advantaged segments of society doted on doves and pigeons while the peasants starved Today's dollar-sign dynasties are making the same mistakes which eventually cost Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI their crowns--and their heads.

  4. Downtown Denizen7/30/2009 6:24 PM

    Good point Anon 7:06.

    When this conference should be centered around how to use wind energy and solar power, its biggest concern will be for the birds, so to speak.

  5. I've talked to literally thousands of people in the past few decades who told me how birds, from chickadees to eagles, warblers to pigeons, make their lives better. These are regular people, not some elite bunch. A stroke victim whose first sensation months after being paralyzed was of a chickadee lighting on his finger. Cancer patients who got up in the morning to watch the birds at their feeders. Workers at an airport maintenance office who called me the morning after 9/11 to ask me to come help a pigeon in trouble. Birds are not just some abstract love of rich people.

    Clean energy is critical for our future, whether we are birds or human beings. But isn't it better to work out ways that we can have clean energy AND birds than have clean energy and massacre a bunch of birds and bats? Or do you think this is automatically an either/or situation--a damn the birds, full speed ahead thing?