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‘Wind Power Vs. Birds’ Debate Rages On

The ongoing struggle between alternative energy advocates and bird conservationists (which are often overlapping groups and unlikely foes) continued this week after a planned $400 million wind farm was scrapped.

This came as a massive victory for bird conservationists because one of the biggest factors of the decision, cited by MPR News, was the “adverse impact this project could have on endangered or threatened species.”

Xcel Energy Inc. was planning to build the wind farm in the southeast portion of North Dakota with partner enXco, but decided the risks to birds were too great.

The two bird species responsible for this costly disagreement are whooping cranes and piping plovers. Whooping cranes, which I posted about a few months ago, are highly endangered with a mere couple hundreds still living in the wild. Piping plovers, very cute shorebirds that nest along the lakes of North Dakota, are threatened with an estimated 6,410 individuals. However, in the Great Lakes area they are endangered because there are only 63 known nesting pairs.

Both of these species are protected under federal law and if either of the birds are killed by a wind farm without federal permits, the owners could face a hefty fine of $200,000 and time in jail.

The American Bird Conservancy (ABC), which has been running numerous campaigns to raise awareness and urging bird safe wind power, praised the decision to back out based on dangers to birds.

Many people are not happy, especially enXco, which will most likely challenge the decision by Xcel Energy Inc. because they are still working on the data regarding birds.

There are things that can be done to prevent bird deaths, including newer types of blades, systems that shut down with flocks are approaching and fake prey to distract birds.

Timothy Martinez Jr. is a writer and freelance journalist. His work has been published in The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, Remapping Debate in New York City and other publications. He’s been a bird lover since he was young and currently lives in New Orleans, L.A.

2 Comments

  1. I agree. I definitely think wind power is great for the environment, but there needs to be some way the wind farms to be bird safe. Unfortunately, the problem is that birds of prey don’t look forward while flying so they accidentally crash into the turbines. The American Bird Conservancy has some interesting solutions.

  2. Birds learn. I have a fountain in my back yard that birds bath in, drink from etc. We need to study what and how they see movement and color. Who knows painting black and white checks on the turbine blades like a chess board will register as a danger to birds. This can and needs to be resolved for wind power is very clean no carbon, no bad weather caused by them. David Ellis

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