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Wind Guidelines and Wildlife  Daniel J. Alberts
 Aug 26, 2005 11:41 PDT 

We are making progress towards addressing the wildlife concerns in
Michigan's Wind Turbine Siting Guidelines. The Energy Office issued Draft #7
for review last week. Thanks to the consensus we built with our Delphi
Inquiry, the new draft recommends using the USFWS' Potential Impact Index
(PII) and following the American Bird Conservancy's Avian Power Line
Interaction Committee's standards. The guidelines also mention giving
special scrutiny to sites near bird sanctuaries and migration paths, and bat

The guidelines, however do not mention minimum duration for wildlife
studies, nor do they require wildlife studies after turbines are installed.
You can download the latest draft from


During yesterday's Wind Working Group meeting, we debated these issues for
almost an hour. I did my best to represent the consensus of our Delphi
Inquiry. However, I don't think I convinced the WWG to include a minimum
duration for the wildlife studies. We'll see what happens when the Energy
office issues draft 8.

Two other things that look good:

I caught a few hints that Michigan State is interested in leading the effort
to develop a customized PII for Michigan. And this effort may be underway

Dr. Rolf Korford from Iowa State will visit Lansing on Thursday, September 8
to visit with MSU students and faculty, members of the Michigan Wind Working
Group, and DEQ and DNR staff. John Sarver has invited the MWWG to a
breakfast meeting at Kellogg Center at 8:30 a.m. and a seminar that will be
held in NR338 (Natural Resources Building, Farm Lane & Wilson Rd) from
3:00-5:00 pm. If you would like to attend the breakfast meeting, please RSVP
to John Sarver at jhsa-@michigan.gov. A brief bio and abstract follows:

Dr. Korford has experience researching the effects of wind towers on
wildlife. He is a wildlife biologist working for the USGS Iowa Cooperative
Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, and has a faculty position in the
Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management at Iowa State
University. For the past three decades, he has conducted field studies on a
variety of vertebrate species, as well as constructing simulation models of
mallard populations. He has conducted field work in Arizona, California,
Costa Rica, Iowa, and North Dakota. He recently supervised a
graduate-student project on a northern Iowa wind farm that was placed in the
middle of three wildlife areas. He helped design the study, conduct
analyses, and interpret results, thus gaining familiarity with issues
relevant to wind farms and wildlife. The project included assessing
mortality of birds and bats, surveying abundance, and examining behavioral
responses by birds. He has given technical assistance to private companies
and public agencies in Wisconsin in connection with the permitting process
for a proposed wind farm near Horicon Marsh.

Abstract: Promoters of wind energy like to point to its low environmental
cost. Although mountain-top removal is not required to harvest wind
energy, wind farms can negatively affect wildlife species in a variety of
ways. Mortality is the most obvious effect, but there may be behavioral
effects (e.g., avoidance of areas near towers) as well. Wildlife
researchers can play a useful role by providing information used in
developing siting guidelines for windfarms, by monitoring wildlife
populations before and after construction, and by assessing effects on
population viability. Quantifying effects on wildlife, and understanding
how they vary spatially, has proven to be challenging. Planned
experiments, the strongest basis for inference, are unheard of in windfarm
studies. Scavengers may find carcasses before searchers do. Bored or
distracted searchers may miss some carcasses. Behavior is variable and
has multiple influences. In 2003-2004, a study in northern Iowa was
designed to address some of these challenges at a newly constructed
89-tower wind farm. The study, funded mostly by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service (State Wildlife Grant), the company that managed the wind farm, and
the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), was conducted by
biologists with the IDNR and Iowa State University (Iowa Cooperative Fish
and Wildlife Research Unit). The wind towers were all on gently rolling
cropland (corn and soybeans). To facilitate carcass searches, strips of
ground were kept bare of vegetation. We estimated the total number of
birds and bats killed each year by adjusting the carcass counts to account
for proportion of the area searched, search efficiency, and scavenging
rate. Bird abundance and bat activity (assessed with bat detectors) near
towers was compared to abundance and activity away from towers. We
examined Canada Goose foraging activity and vigilance behavior in an area
closed to goose hunting. Approximately 1 million goose-use days were
documented each year in three wildlife management areas within a few miles
of the wind farm. Our findings indicate which taxa were most at risk at
this site. In conjunction with results from other studies, our findings
provide some guidance for siting midwestern windfarms and direct attention
to additional research needs.

Daniel Alberts
Lawrence Tech's Wind Energy Delphi
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