An orange-bellied parrot perched on the edge of a feeding bowl. The species is listed as critically endangered.
Margot Kiesskalt | Stock | Getty Images
Plans for a huge new wind farm in Australia got the thumbs up this month: the supply to its turbines is turned off for five months of the year to protect a species of parrot.
In an environmental assessment report for the Robbins Island Renewable Energy Park, the Tasmanian Environment Protection Authority said its council had “determined to approve the proposal” for the project, which could have up to 122 wind turbines and is supervised by ACEN Australia.
One of the conditions of approval concerns the orange-bellied parrot, which the Australian government says is critically endangered.
“Unless otherwise approved in writing by the EPA Board, all WTG [wind turbine generators] must be stopped during the northern OBP migration period (March 1 to May 31 inclusive) and the southern OBP migration period (September 15 to November 15 included),” the EPA document says.
In a statement last week, EPA board chairman Andrew Paul said the organization had concluded that “significant mitigation measures” were needed in relation to the “potential impacts on the budgerigar population orange”.
This was due to “limited knowledge about the importance of Robbins Island in the annual north and south migrations”, as well as the need to consider a National Recovery Plan for the species.
“This has led to the inclusion of [project approval] condition FF6 which imposes downtime during migrations for a total of five months when the turbines cannot operate,” Paul added.
Robbins Island is located in the waters off the northwest coast of Tasmania, a large island and Australian state. If all goes according to plan, the total capacity of the proposed wind farm could reach 900 megawatts.
CNBC reached out to ACEN Australia through the Robbins Island project website, but did not receive a response prior to publication. Ayala Corporation, the parent company of ACEN Australia’s majority owner ACEN Corporation, did not respond to a request for comment from CNBC.
In a Facebook post, the project’s developers said they welcomed the EPA’s approval, adding that further approvals were needed from the Circular Head Council and the Department of Climate Change, Energy, Environment and Water of the Commonwealth Government. They were expected in early 2023, they said.
In comments reported by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, ACEN Australia chief operating officer David Pollington described the blackout condition as “completely unexpected”.
The company “should consider our options going forward,” Pollington told the ABC report.
Amid global plans to increase wind power capacity in the coming years, the interaction of wind turbines with the natural world, including marine and bird life, is likely to become a key area of debate.
The UK-based Royal Society for the Protection of Birds warns that wind farms “can harm birds through disturbance, displacement, acting as barriers, loss of habitat and collision”, adding that “the impacts can arise from a single development and from multiple cumulative projects”.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration has said that some wind projects and turbines may result in bat and bird casualties.
“These deaths can contribute to the decline in the population of species also affected by other human impacts,” he points out. “The wind energy industry and the US government are investigating ways to reduce the effect of wind turbines on birds and bats.”
Brussels-based industry body WindEurope says the effects of the projects can be prevented “by proper planning, siting and design of wind farms”.
“The impact of wind farms on birds and bats is extremely low compared to the impact of climate change and other human activities,” he adds.