Wind and wings



Even "green" energy sources such as wind power can have a negative impact on wildlife and habitats.

A coalition of energy companies, conservations groups and government agencies has developed a set of wind energy recommendations aimed at increasing production while protecting New Mexico wildlife—primarily birds and bats—and habitat.

The New Mexico Wind and Wildlife Collaborative’s (NMWWC) met for over two years to create a list of “best management practices” for designing and siting wind facilities that consider threats to birds and bats. Energy companies operating in New Mexico are not bound to following the recommendations.

wind turbine, wind power, wind energy, ecological impact

According to Christopher Ratay of NMWWC participant Playa Lakes Joint Venture, a bird conservation group that helped to facilitate the meetings, the group tried to create a process that would consider wildlife not just at wind facilities but all renewable energy sources, including solar. He explained that while there are no state or federal regulations governing the renewable energy industry, wind facilities want to avoid creating problems if possible.

That’s because one of the appeals of wind power is that it’s considered a “green” energy source. While wind-generated power does allow energy companies to reduce their carbon footprint the height of the turbines, speed of the blades, and location of the towers all impact birds and bats. The turbine pads and roads created to install and maintain the towers fragment wildlife habitat.

Newer turbines and blades kill fewer birds, according to NMWWC, but even a well-designed wind tower placed in the path of migratory birds and foraging bats will create problems.Now that the group’s best management practices have been posted to their website only time will tell if wind-energy companies decide to implement them.

The NMWWC participants are:

Stakeholder Groups

Participants

Energy Industry & Utilities

enXco,First Wind,Horizon Wind Energy, Iberdrola Renewables,NextEra Energy,PNM Resources,Third Planet Windpower,Tri-State Generation & Transmission Association,Xcel Energy

Science & Conservation

Audubon New Mexico,Hawks Aloft,Natural Resources Defense Council,Natural Heritage New Mexico,Playa Lakes Joint Venture,The Nature Conservancy,University of New Mexico

Landowners

Coalition of Renewable Energy Landowners (CRELA),FREDA,Tramperos Wind Energy Association

Consultants

ACS Consulting,SORA,SWCA Environmental Consultants

Government Agencies

NM Department of Agriculture,NM Department of Game & Fish,NM Energy, Minerals & Natural Resources Department,NM State Land Office,US Bureau of Land Management,US Fish and Wildlife Service,US Forest Service

For more on how our cities can create hazards for wildlife soar on over to Next-Door Nature.

Thanks to these photographers for making their work available through a Creative Commons license: [from top to bottom]: pheanix (vulture in flight); Jorge Lascar (wind turbine).

Kieran Lindsey

Kieran Lindsey

Kieran Lindsey loves looking for wild things in all the wrong places... so she became an urban biologist. Her quest to entice others to share this passion led to flirtations with (gasp!) the media—as a columnist for the Houston Chronicle; as host of KUNM-FM’s Wild Things; as producer of an Emmy® winning wildlife documentary; and at her Next-Door Nature blog. Kieran has way too much fun as official Animal-Vehicle Biologist for NPR's Car Talk, and she isn’t ashamed to admit it.

Kieran Lindsey

Kieran Lindsey

Kieran Lindsey loves looking for wild things in all the wrong places... so she became an urban biologist. Her quest to entice others to share this passion led to flirtations with (gasp!) the media—as a columnist for the Houston Chronicle; as host of KUNM-FM’s Wild Things; as producer of an Emmy® winning wildlife documentary; and at her Next-Door Nature blog. Kieran has way too much fun as official Animal-Vehicle Biologist for NPR's Car Talk, and she isn’t ashamed to admit it.

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