American Bird Conservancy (ABC), the nation’s leading bird conservation organization, today said that the cancellation of the Xcel Energy Inc. 150-megawatt, $400 million wind farm in southeastern North Dakota reflects how serious bird mortality issues are in connection with the burgeoning wind farm industry.
“We have been maintaining all along that if the wind industry doesn’t embrace bird-smart principles, the impacts to birds can be very serious. These principles aren’t complicated. The industry needs to site wind farms away from endangered birds and high concentrations of migrants, do the proper monitoring before and after construction, and compensate and mitigate impacts,” said Mike Parr, Vice President of ABC.>“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says that about 440,000 birds are killed at wind farms every year right now. We can only imagine how much those numbers will increase when the industry installs 12 times more wind power as part of its target build-out by 2030. We certainly are looking at bird mortality in the millions,” Parr said.
“The fact that this project needed to be cancelled is evidence of the seriousness of the risk to birds from wind development. We are delighted that Xcel has opted not to proceed at this location, and hope that the project can be moved to another site that has fewer bird impacts. However, without national standards that protect birds, there is nothing to stop other wind operators from irresponsible wind project siting elsewhere,” Parr said.
“The wind industry receives huge taxpayer subsidies, yet continues to harm birds in violation of two major environmental laws – the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act,” he said.
The issues with wind go far beyond bird mortality caused by the turbine blades. They include potential population-level impacts due to collisions with the power lines that bring wind-generated electricity to the grid – a particular threat for species such as the endangered Whooping Crane and other large birds – and habitat loss from the footprint of the wind farms and associated roads and structures. About 20,000 square miles of habitat will be likely lost in the 2030 build-out – larger than the combined areas of New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, and Rhode Island – threatening birds such as the Greater Sage-Grouse and other species in the West.
“ABC supports the concept of bird-smart wind energy. With just a few reasonable accommodations, we could realize the enormous green potential that is waiting to be fully tapped, and we would be happy to work with industry toward that end,” Parr said.
American Bird Conservancy (www.abcbirds.org) conserves native birds and their habitats throughout the Americas by safeguarding the rarest species, conserving and restoring habitats, and reducing threats while building capacity in the bird conservation movement. ABC is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit membership organization.