Sunshine wind farm

In association with Western EcoSystems Technology and the Colorado Plateau Research Station, the Landsward Institute (formerly the Ecological Monitoring & Assessment Program) published a report entitled “Avian Studies for the Proposed Sunshine Wind Park.”

Sunshine Wind Energy is proposing the construction of a forty turbine wind park approximately thirty-seven miles east of Flagstaff off Interstate 40 at the Meteor Crater exit. The one-year avian study (December 2004-November 2005) was conducted to better understand the possible risk to avian species from the project’s construction. A bat study was also conducted in 2006.  The Landsward Institute supports the growing need for alternative energy sources and we want to facilitate the needed research. Wind turbines threaten bird and bat species for three primary reasons:

  1. Mortality from collisions with the turbine blades, towers, power lines, or with other related structures, and electrocution on power lines;
  2. Avoidance of the wind turbines and habitat surrounding them;
  3. Direct habitat impacts from the turbines’ footprint, including roads, power lines, and auxiliary buildings.

The studies were completed with the hope that a site can be constructed that will provide an alternative energy source while minimizing bird and bat mortality. The goal of the project was to provide information about avian and bat use of the study area that is:

  1. Useful in evaluation the potential impact from the wind project;
  2. Helpful in designing a wind project that is less likely to expose avian and bat species to risk of turbine collisions; and
  3. Provides baseline information for post-construction studies that will advance understanding of wind farm and wildlife interaction in the Southwest.

Avian Study

The surveys estimated spatial and temporal use of the proposed site by the species with a particular focus on raptors and other large birds.

Results:

The study found that the horned lark constituted the majority of the bird sightings at the proposed Sunshine Wind Park. The horned lark and common raven comprised the vast majority of avian usage; these results were in accordance with a site of desert scrub type foliage with bare ground and short vegetation. Raptors are uncommon at the site; they comprised less than 1.7% of all bird use.

Risk of Turbine Collision:

The horned lark and common raven appear to be at the greatest risk of turbine collision due to their high abundance at the proposed site. However, mortality studies at other wind parks commonly find horned lark and other passerine causalities, but common ravens are less susceptible to collision with wind turbines. Passerines would likely make up the majority of avian fatalities. Raptors are not at great risk from the proposed development.

Conclusion:

Despite the passerine presence at the site, the overall avian usage of the site is relatively low. The results show that there are no sites with marked avian use, and there are no specific areas were turbines should be avoided.

The final report was released in May 2007. Click here to access the full report.

Bat Study

The bat survey was completed in fall of 2006. To access the final report, click here.

Reference:

“American Bird Conservancy Wind Energy Policy.” American Bird Conservancy. May 2004. Accessible at http://www.abcbirds.org/policy/windpolicy.htm.


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