Sunday, June 11, 2006

Wind Power Moratorium

Wind turbine projects around the country have been temporarily halted while the Defense Department studies whether the turbines could interfere with military radar.

[Wind farm developers] say their wind turbines are victims of the ongoing dispute between Cape Cod residents and developers of the proposed Cape Wind farm in Nantucket Sound. The Defense Department study was put in the 2006 Defense Authorization Act -- inserted, say wind farm developers, by senators who want to block Cape Wind.

"This legislation was intended to derail Cape Wind, but it had a boomerang effect and affected a lot of projects around the country," said Michael Skelly of Horizon Wind Energy, a Texas company constructing the country's largest wind farm near Bloomington, Ill.

This spring, facilities in the works in North Dakota, South Dakota, Illinois and Wisconsin received "proposed hazard" letters from the Federal Aviation Administration saying the projects must be halted pending the Defense Department study.

FAA spokeswoman Diane Spitaliere said the letters are in keeping with the agency's usual review process, which has been slowed by the quickly increasing number of permit applications for wind turbines nationwide.

While I generally support the development of wind turbines to replace fossil fuels, I do find the following project worrisome.
An offshore wind farm of as many as 170 turbines is planned in the Gulf of Mexico off South Padre Island, Tex. The $2 billion project will generate enough electricity for 125,000 homes.
South Padre Island is along one of the key bird migration corridors for North America. If advocates are wrong, and birds do get caught up in the turbines, this project could devastate North American populations of birds, many of which are already weakened by other human-caused factors. While birds migrate almost everywhere, making a complete moratorium impossible, known concentration points like South Padre Island ought to be off-limits to such development, or at least have to slow or stop turbines during peak migration periods.