Bird kill at wind facility triggers better practices

November 23, 2011

National Audubon Society
Courtesy of Boylan and RVC Professor Larry McPheron

Vice President of Sinnissippi Audubon Society

News of a recent bird kill of blackpoll warblers and other species at a wind facility in West Virginia spread quickly through birding lists and caught the attention of the birding community in the region. Audubon staff learned of this unfortunate event and contacted the facility owner, AES Wind Generation, to investigate the causes of the incident and to work toward developing solutions that will help ensure such an incident doesn’t happen again. From all indications, a combination of lighting and poor weather conditions were the primary causes of the bird kill.

AES representatives told Audubon they have taken immediate corrective actions to curtail excessive night lighting, replace equipment with preferable downward-shielded lighting fixtures, and will modify other site specifications. They will increase monitoring and take additional steps to reduce or eliminate lighting the facility during migration seasons to avert future bird kills of this type.

Now, actions need to be taken to minimize the likelihood of similar events in the future at other wind power facilities. Audubon is in discussions with AES and others about sharing the lessons from this event with the broader wind industry and emphasizing the importance of the lighting practices in the forthcoming federal wind guidelines. We hope that, as a result, new facilities will be written to specs that incorporate lighting practices that have been shown to minimize bird mortality during migration. This is a straightforward corrective action that will significantly lessen the negative consequences to birds, while delivering carbon-limited sources of renewable energy. We will be working to help make this a standard practice across the industry.

Read more about this incident and the actions taken: www.audubon.org/documents/audubon-summary-aes-bird-kill-incident. Contact Connie Mahan in Audubon’s Policy Office if you have any questions or concerns: cmahan@audubon.org.

From the Nov. 23-29, 2011, issue

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