The Senate Inquiry into Wind Farms may be drawing to a close but the battle between facts and fiction looks to continue for some time. With the terms of reference all but ignored, the majority of Select Committee Senators have focused their questions on health effects and wildlife impacts, with an attitude more akin to a “wind hunt” than open inquiry.
You have to be made of strong stuff to stand up for verifiable scientific research on wind farm impacts in Australia today.
Emma Bennett, independent scientific consultant has worked on the issue of wind farms and wildlife since 2005 in Australia and overseas. With a passion for scientific methodology, wildlife preservation and wind energy Emma faced a hostile Inquiry in Melbourne recently. Be inspired by excerpts from her submission to the Inquiry below and if you haven’t done so already, then hug the next scientist you meet!
When Emma appeared before the Senate Wind Inquiry, she had this to say. You can see the full transcript of her exchange with the Senators here.
Since 2005 I have worked as an independent consultant monitoring the impact of wind farms on birds and bats. Over this time I have conducted or supervised over 8000 surveys
at 8 different wind farms across Australia including some of Australia’s largest wind farms. I work closely with government officials who act as an oversight to our studies and with other consultants engaged in this sector. I am the co-founder of the Australasian Wind and Wildlife (WAW) Working Group and co-editor and author on the book Wind and Wildlife...
In Australia, our bird and bat mortality rates at wind farms are lower on average than other places in the world and in Victoria, specifically, monitoring programs have been known to last for up to 7 years even with no negative impacts to populations detected, nor with any rare or threatened species impacted.
I am proud that the industry I work with undertakes extensive environmental monitoring to determine their initial and ongoing impact in the landscape. I would like to see bird and bat monitoring initiated in all developments particularly buildings, power lines and roads which combined account for over 80% of anthropogenic bird deaths in the USA. In fact, if the government was to support the bushfire enquiry and move all power lines underground, over 50% of human induced bird deaths could potentially be avoided. I have never found a rare or threatened bird impacted at a wind farm, I have found a Brolga, dead under power lines (2014) near a wildlife reserve, post mortem examination confirmed electrocution.
Here is a summary of Emma’s findings on wildlife impacts from Wind farms from her submission:
Impacts to birds and bats at wind farms in Australia are similar and on average lower than other countries around the world.
Wind farm bird deaths account for less than 0.01% of all human induced bird deaths in the USA (Erikson et al 2005) and best estimates would be similar in Australia.
Consultants and scientists in Australia are working together with the global Wind and Wildlife community to improve methodology and certainty in impact estimates and are doing so with no other driver then for that of scientific excellence and knowledge building.
The Federal Government’s anti wind farm agenda reduces certainty in the sector and prevents growth, knowledge sharing and improvements to scientific methodologies.
No other industry in Australia must undertake such vigorous monitoring of bird and bat impacts despite other industries contributing significantly more, sometimes in the magnitude of 100 to 1000 times more, to human induced bird deaths.
Current monitoring programs are collecting a wealth of information about bird movements and numbers in the landscape and the government has failed to facilitate knowledge sharing between industry, consultants, governments and the community relying on professional volunteers to drive industry learning.