News | 2nd Mar, 2004

Surveys indicate low risk to birds from wind farms

Tuesday, 2 March 2004

Green groups have welcomed the release of two landmark surveys that indicate Victoria’s wind farms pose a low risk to birds and bats.

The surveys, the first of their kind in Australia, revealed there were no rare, threatened or endangered birds or bats killed by turbines, Victoria’s peak conservation body said.

Four birds and two bats were killed at Codrington wind farm[1], in the south-west of Victoria, between 2000 and 2003, and six bats were killed at Toora[2], in south Gippsland, between 2002 and 2003 – all of which were common or introduced species, said Environment Victoria campaigner Darren Gladman.

The survey of Codrington, which has 14 turbines, estimated that between 18 and 38 birds would be killed each year, which represents between 1.2 to 2.7 birds per turbine per year and is consistent with overseas studies, said Mr Gladman.

The Toora survey showed magpie and raven activity declined around the site’s 12 turbines, while wedge-tailed eagle activity increased, with eagles adept at flying around the turbines.

“In comparison to the risks posed by power lines, cars, the average house cat – and most importantly global warming – the risks from wind farms to birds and bats are low,” he said.

Research published in Nature in January showed global warming could kill up to one million species or a quarter of all land animals and plants by 2050. Just last week a Pentagon report warned that climate change “could bring the planet to the edge of anarchy”.

“In a context of the worsening impacts of global warming due to coal-fired power generation, this strengthens the case for developing renewable energy sources such as wind farms.

“Compared to the risk created from our existing energy sources – especially brown coal – wind farms may not be perfect but they are essential.

“Every megawatt of wind power generated goes towards reducing our greenhouse gas emissions and the risk of global warming.”

Mr Gladman said while the surveys were a progressive initial step, the State Government should make them a mandatory part of all wind development, to ensure that wind farms were sited in environmentally-acceptable locations.

“It is vital that surveys ensure that rare, threatened or endangered bird populations are not put at risk, as well as large populations of common species.”

1. Birds killed – skylark, Australian magpie, skylark or Richard’s pipit, and brown falcon. Bats killed – white-striped mastiff bat (2).

2. Bats killed – five white-striped mastiff bats and one chocolate wattled bat.