Texas Coast Wind Generation Sites Pose Severe Threat to Birds

The Coastal Habitat Alliance, Inc. today released the results of a scientific review of two proposed wind energy generation projects for Kenedy County, Texas. According to the results of the analysis that was conducted by EDM International, Inc. using methodologies developed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, these projects pose a severe threat to migratory and resident birds and bats. In fact, in terms of potential harm to migratory birds, the sites were determined to be almost as sensitive as a nationally renowned National Wildlife Refuge established for bird protection.

"The proposed Kenedy County Wind Projects, totaling 1,200 MW, are unprecedented along the Gulf Coast and the operation of these proposed projects could result in the largest and most significant avian mortality event in the history of wind energy. The associated negative repercussions to the expanding wind industry both in the U.S and the internationally could be significant as well." EDM Report [pg. 51(emphasis added).

"This review clearly demonstrates that the Laguna Madre is a world-class bad site for wind energy generation," said environmental lawyer and CHA founder Jim Blackburn. "These projects should not be allowed to be constructed without public input and meaningful environmental analysis and review. They could literally destroy some of the most important assets of the coastal environment."

The Lower Texas Coast is among the most important bird migration corridors in North America. Despite this fact, Babcock & Brown (an Australian fund and asset management group) and PPM Energy (a subsidiary of Iberdrola's Scottish Power), are pursuing the construction of two separate industrial wind energy generation facilities along the Laguna Madre region of the South Texas Coast in Kenedy County. The projects would impact 60,000 acres and include 500+ turbines, approximately 400 feet tall, as tall as the Statue of Liberty.

In addition to evaluating the proposed sites using the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's 2003 Interim Siting Guidance on Avoiding and Minimizing Wildlife Impacts from Wind Turbines, EDM also reviewed the environmental reports prepared by PPM that purported to show little threat to birds from the project. EDM found numerous flaws with the studies, including using methods and approaches too limited to address the broad front of bird migration along the Texas Gulf Coast.

"Facility siting is key to a wind energy development," said EDM project manager, Lori Nielsen. "Although the PPM researchers attempted to use science-based approaches for Phase I of the Peñascal Project, the EDM Team identified problems and errors with many of the methods used and results reported. We have not seen any of the Babcock & Brown study methods or metrics to date."

Dr. Sidney Gauthreaux, a preeminent expert on avian migration and use of radar to monitor bird movements along the Gulf Coast of Texas and Louisiana, was integral to the EDM Team's review of the radar studies completed to date by PPM for the first phase of the wind development for the Kenedy County Wind Projects.

EDM's report also highlights the possible legal implications of building wind energy developments in an area where there is prior knowledge of a high likelihood of significant avian mortality. EDM notes that avian collision issues fall under three federal acts: the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, Endangered Species Act, and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.

"While the USFWS has used its prosecutorial discretion at other wind facilities it is hard to imagine that such an approach would be supported if turbines are knowingly placed in two areas the USFWS' 2003 guidelines for wind energy facilities equates to a National Wildlife Refuge of significant importance."

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