A recent World-Herald story on the American Bird Conservancy’s concerns about the rapid development of wind power and its effects on the bird population raised questions that need to be thought through as the industry grows.
The advocacy group contends that several species of birds, including golden eagles, whooping cranes and greater sage-grouse, will be endangered by “poorly planned and sited wind projects,” according to Kelly Fuller, a conservancy spokeswoman.
But Nebraska authorities involved with approving wind farms in the state have shown that they are already fully aware of the potential problem. This topic was among those discussed by the state Legislature last year when it debated and passed legislation regulating wind power.
Wind farm sites are checked by experts and conservationists to determine their possible impact on the environment, including local and migratory birds, according to officials with the Nebraska Public Power District and Mid-American Energy Co. An NPPD spokesman said the utility monitors bird kills at its wind sites but hasn’t seen anything significant. The agency hasn’t heard of any endangered species being killed at the state’s wind farms.
Gov. Dave Heineman has called on Nebraska to boost its wind-power ranking, saying the state should aim to become a top 10 wind producer within 10 years. That would require nearly 10 times as much generation.
The conservancy is calling for strong standards to protect birds. But standards and oversight during the permitting process already exist. If they don’t satisfy the conservancy, the advocacy group needs to talk to the state agencies involved and, perhaps, the Legislature.
No rational person supports mass killings of birds, but birds will always face a degree of risk whenever and wherever they come into contact with human beings. The goal should be a rational one — minimize bird fatalities, but get on with building farms.
If the conservancy and other bird groups work toward that end, everyone could wind up happy.