Wind Energy and Birds (Position Paper)

The Rochester Birding Association (RBA) supports wind energy as an alternative to fossil fuel power generation, provided that the facilities do not cause undue harm to nesting and migrating birds.

It is well known that fossil fuel generation of electrical power produces emissions that result in acid rain and mercury contamination. Studies have shown that both are harmful to birds. In April 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported that global warming, due in part to CO2 emissions from coal, oil and gas fired plants, may result in the extinction of many plant and animal species, including birds. Electrical energy produced by wind turbines is one alternative to fossil fuel power generation and can help reduce environmental toxins and the rate of global warming.

However, when wind farms are located in areas heavily frequented by migratory and nesting birds, many deaths have occurred. Bat mortality has also been high and, in some cases, exceeded bird deaths. To ensure that wind farms are located where bird and bat deaths will not jeopardize the population of any species, RBA believes that scientific site evaluations must be conducted before wind turbines are approved by the responsible governmental authorities. These studies must be conducted by qualified researchers using accepted scientific methodology and include technologies such as remote sensing and radar imaging to establish the patterns of bird migration and nesting in the vicinity of the proposed wind farm. The duration of the site evaluations should be such as to include at least one spring and fall migration cycle and one summer nesting season. Multi-year evaluations must be conducted if a proposed location is found to have particular sensitivity to bird and bat activity. Again, site evaluation must take place before the wind farm location receives governmental approval.

In our region, the south shore of Lake Ontario is an internationally recognized major migratory route for birds. Observational data maintained by the Rochester Birding Association and others, such as Braddock Bay Raptor Research and Braddock Bay Bird Observatory, show that the region within one to three miles of the shoreline is a major migratory pathway. RBA believes that wind farms proposed in this important migration area must receive special scientific evaluation before installations are approved.

RBA looks forward to working with government, industry and citizens to ensure that wind energy comes to our region in a way that does not cause significant harm to birds, bats and the ecosystems they inhabit.

Issued by the RBA Board of Directors and Conservation Committee

August 20, 2007