Orange Bellied Parrots and Wind Generators

To: birding-aus <>
Subject: Orange Bellied Parrots and Wind Generators
From: Laurie & Leanne Knight <>
Date: Tue, 05 Jun 2001 18:39:32 +1000
There appears to be a potential conflict facing our fellow BA
correspondents from the Vic Dept of Nat Resources and Environment,
between the needs of bird conservation and sustainable power
generation..  An item in the Sunday Age [see below], which none of our
Victorian cousins got round to mentioning, expresses concern that a wind
generator development on the Vic coastline will put orange-bellied
parrots at risk.  

A friend of mine who is knowledgable about alternative energy systems is
of the belief that the risk is low [comments appended]. 

I believe this is an issue that BA could productively discuss given that
a degree of birding expertise is needed to come to a conclusion.  I
think if a worthwhile development like wind generation is knocked back,
then it is on the basis of valid concerns rather than a disguised NIMBY.

For example, what is the likelihood of an OBP flying into the blades of
a wind generator ? given that the blades are likely to be of the order
of 10 ?20 metres above the ground and rotating at 50 RPM?  Similarly, is
it possible to construct wind generators in such a manner that they
miminise the risk of bird strikes ? eg make the blades more visible,
slower rotation, sound warning etc?


A green dilemma: feathers set to fly

 Sunday Age 3 June 2001 p8

 An environmental stoush is brewing over a move to reduce greenhouse
 emissions in far west Victoria, with fears the plan may further imperil
the endangered orange-bellied parrot that the Federal Government has
already spent $1 million to save.

 The dispute relates to plans by the company Pacific Hydro to generate
renewable energy from a string of wind farms along the wild coast from
Port Fairy to the South Australian border. Conservationsists fear
parrots and other birds will fly into the turbines and be killed.

 The company has almost completed the state's first commercial
 windfarm at Codrington, where 14 wind turbines will power 14,000
 homes via the grid, and is now planning the Portland Wind Energy
 Project, with at least 100 more turbines across another four sites -
including a prime wintering ground for orange-bellied parrots.

 The row demonstrates that even green industries have environmental
 impacts - and this one, at Deen Maar, between Yambuk and
 Codrington - could come at the expense of the region's rich birdlife.

 Deen Maar, one of a number of sites in Victoria proposed for a string
of the generally environmentally friendly windmills,is also one of four
United Nations indigenous protected areas in Australia, singled out for
its cultural and environmental significance.

 It forms part of the story of Bunjil, the creator spirit of the local
Gunditj-Mara and Kirrae-Whurrong people. It is also part of the Yambuk
Lake wetland and saltmarsh system and is listed in international
agreements protecting migratory birds. With fewer than 200 of the
orange-bellied birds left in the wild, Jonathan Starks of Birds
Australia is worried about the survival of the species if they collide
with the turbine blades and are killed.

 About 10 per cent of the parrot population winters at Deen Maar, and it
is a staging post for other groups migrating to South Australia from

 The parrots lead a hazardous existence. They breed in Tasmanian
 forests in summer, then fly over Bass Strait to winter in ictoria's
 coastal saltmarshes, where development is identified as the main threat
to their existance.

 "Australia is so heavily biased to coastal living, and the saltmarshes
have been seen as rubbish areas to be drained, filled in and built on,"
Mr Starks said. "The parrots have lost so much habitat, they are just
hanging on in these tiny remnant patches. The best has already gone, so
it is no surprise they are so rare."

 Pacific Hydro's Grant Flynn said the company, conscious of Deen
 Maar's significance, had initiated an environment impact
 assessmentthat will be sent to state Planning Minister John Thwaites,
who will recommend to the federal Environment Minister whether the
project should proceed and with what conditions. The federal minister
has the final say because the project affects migratory and nationally
endangered species.

 Mr Flynn said Pacific Hydro initiated the assessment to be certain the
Portland Wind Energy Project met the company's triple bottom-line
objectives of environmental, social and economic sustainability.

 While the birds were important, the number-one issue most communities
had with the project was aesthetics.

 Mr Flynn said while there had been a lot of controversy about wind
farms, Pacific Hyrdo wanted to be sure the benefits far outweighed the
negative implications and that the negatives could be ameliorated.

 Research into the impact of wind farms on birds is still in its early
days, and turbine designs continue to be refined. Early turbines on
lattice stands in California proved lethal to birds of prey, which used
the stands as vantage points to hunt, then were caught in the blades as
they lifted off. Turbines are now mounted on poles, and strung in lines
rather than clustered.

 Nevertheless, Mr Starks, who is providing expert advice to Pacific
 Hydro's consultants, said the evidence so far indicated that birds of
prey, waterbirds and migratory birds with defined flight paths were most
at risk from windfarms. Deen Maar and Yambuk lake are havens for all
three categories.

 Mr Starks said the death toll was 40 birds per turbine per year for
 some wind farms on migratory flight paths in Europe.

 He also said the impact assessment should be taking place over two
 years, not one season, if the parrots' flight paths, flight heights and
habits were to be thoroughly surveyed and recorded.

 Mr Lionel Harradine, chairman of the Framlingham Aboriginal Trust,
 which owns and manages Deen Maar, said the Aboriginal community
 would consider the out come of various archeological and
 environmental surveys before deciding whether to approve the wind

 He said rent for the turbines would help fund the habitat-restoration
program on Deen Maar, a degraded former sheep run.

 "From what I see of the orange-bellied parrots, they don't fly very
 high. The turbines are big structures, so if the birds can't see them,
there is something wrong with them. There would have to be a gale to
force them into them."

 The parrots are regulars on the nearby property of Mr Billy Sinnott
 and Ms Denise Maguire. They regard Deen Maar as a test case to set
 environmental and aesthetical standards.Ms Maguire said planning
 guidelines were still evolving for this very new industry, and with
 potential sites for 1000 turbines identified in Victoria, "this is not
a little issue".

 "This case against having a wind farm in this location - you will not
get another case as strong anywhere," said Mr Sinnott.

 The case involved one of Australia's most endangered species, "so if it
goes ahead here, it is hard to imagine another location being knocked

A lot of that is hype.  I would hazard a guess that the procrastinators
haven't actually experienced a close look at an operating wind turbine
(large turbines spin at around 50 ..... FIVE OH revs per minute).  If
birds are stupid enough to fly into one of these turbines, they will
bang their collective nano-brains - not turn into goose down! Small
turbines (up to say 25 kW) will spin very fast by comparison The only
risks to the environment are likely to be:

   * aesthetic - impact on landscape values and local amenity.  (this 
could be significant and may be the overarching factor which  determines
whether a site is suitable or not)
   * noise - a hum will be emitted from the generator equipment when the
wind is blowing
   * site disturbance - the footprint of disturbance will include the
turbine structure and network cabling for energy distribution (could be
   * hardstand areas for the tourist buses (as is the case at Ravenshoe)
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