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Experts meet on birds issue

A "bird summit" is being planned this summer to bring together the wind power industry, environmentalists and government officials to discuss the controversial matter of bird kills in wind farms. Representatives at the meeting would scrutinise two issues -- what the current situation is and how the problem should be approached for new wind farms going in the ground.

"Our main focus is to work with the environmental groups, to make sure the issue is addressed up front. We're trying to work with all the groups," says Bob Thresher, head of the wind programme at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), which is organising the summit. "It's a sort of meeting of the minds and experts," he adds. Representatives would attend from the wind industry, the Union of Concerned Scientists, bird protection group the National Audubon Society, Edison Electric Institute, and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI).

Some $450,000 is included in NREL's budget for the bird issue. Some of that is being funnelled to the Santa Cruz Predatory Research Group, based at the University of California, for a broad, one-year pilot study of bird population dynamics in the Altamont Pass, says Thresher. Experts will study what is happening to the overall bird population there. All eagles within a ten-mile radius of the Altamont Pass will be captured and outfitted with radio transmitters.

"We're not going to eliminate [bird deaths] altogether, but I predict some real solutions that will make it possible for golden eagles and wind power to live in the real world," Hans Peeters, a raptor expert involved in the study, told the Livermore Independent newspaper. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, near the Altamont Pass, and the World Centre for Birds of Prey in Boise, Idaho are also participating in the study.

In addition, $50,000 of the NREL funding is being used to loan equipment to Kenetech Windpower and EPRI for a video system to document bird behaviour. Lastly, studies may be done locally, in Minnesota and Montana where projects are slated to be installed, says Thresher. Money is currently being requested from government funds.for the studies.

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