United States

United States


The president of US wind company Kenetech Corporation, Gerald Alderson, made several extraordinary claims about press coverage of bird deaths in wind farms when he was being examined by the Welsh Affairs Committee during its detailed investigation into wind development in Wales. Alderson minimised the impact of turbines on migrating birds and accused the press of being too fanciful.

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During examination as an expert witness by British members of parliament, the president of US wind company Kenetech Corporation made several extraordinary claims about press coverage of bird deaths in wind farms. Gerald Alderson was being examined by the Welsh Affairs Committee during its detailed investigation into wind development in Wales, the results of which were released late July.

His comments about the press were particularly directed at Windpower Monthly and a newspaper in California. Questioning Alderson, committee chairman, Gareth Wardell, asked his reaction to a Spanish politician's claim, reported in Windpower Monthly, that Kenetech had "fobbed" Spain off with "a series of obsolete, old and outdated machines." Alderson replied: "Actually, I do not pay much attention that magazine." The chairman responded: "I can understand why!" Alderson retorted: "That magazine, I am aware of, is primarily an industry magazine written in Denmark and presents the Danish view of the world."

Turning to bird deaths recorded by ornithologists at a wind farm of Kenetech machines at Tarifa in southern Spain, Wardell drew attention to Alderson's choice of tie, remarking that it was obviously a bird tie. "I debated between this and the National Trust tie," interjected Alderson. "That is helpful," said Wardell.

He continued: "Again referring to the magazine that you pay little attention to, there is an article that we have been sent from that magazine in relation to the large numbers of raptors that have been killed by the Tarifa turbines. Were they turbines that your company was using. . .?" Alderson: "I think, well I know, that with a free press you are able to say anything you would like to say with impunity independent of the facts and therefore whether or not any of those raptors were killed in or around those wind farms, and if so by which particular machines, I think is subject to a large amount of doubt." Alderson then referred to Windpower Monthly's February cover photo, which showed the body of a mutilated raptor in the wind farm held up for inspection. "That was a posed picture associated with a bird that that individual or someone who he is associated with killed some place and took up on the site and had the picture taken," he alleged.

Alderson also claimed that wind turbines do not cause "that kind of damage to a bird." He said the leading edge of a rotor blade is rounded and after collision a bird "looks more like a pile of feathers." He added that to counteract "flamboyant and in fact dramatically incorrect statements in the press" Kenetech would provide "a scientific body of evidence" showing wind turbines have insignificant impact on birds. With few eye witness reports of bird deaths in wind farms, raptors are being raised in captivity and shown pictures of turbines at feeding time, he explained. "For $1 million you can get a lot of people to do a lot of things," he quipped about Kenetech's bird research investment. When released, the raptors are more likely to interact with wind turbines and can be monitored.

Research with homing pigeons is also being conducted, Alderson said. Declaring himself a "pigeon fancier," Wardell questioned the reliability of evidence from such studies, based on his knowledge of the habits of homing pigeons. He said pigeons are more likely to rise to a great height before heading home instead of flying through a wind farm.

Reading from a California Energy Commission (CEC) report on bird mortality in Altamont Pass, received from the State of Montana, Wardell quoted: "Most of these deaths resulted from amputation injuries. . . Immature golden eagles and red-tailed hawks were killed by colliding with turbines more frequently than would have been predicted from their relative abundance in the population." He asked: "Do you think that the California Energy Commission is a reputable body?" Alderson replied that a number of CEC officials had been embarrassed by a small organisation's bird study partially published by the CEC. He could not confirm if the report Wardell was quoting from was this study. "Are you saying that this executive summary . . . would in fact be a faulty one and that the State of Montana and the Governor of the state is sending us information that is itself faulty today?" asked Wardell. Alderson said he had "no knowledge about what the State of Montana do or do not do."

Wardell also questioned Alderson about the United States' Fish and Wildlife Service view of Kenetech projects. "Do you think that this is an organisation that is not worth the paper that it is written on. That it is one of these organisations that causes problems?" he asked. Alderson said it was a balanced organisation, which sometimes supported Kenetech and sometimes not. Asked specifically if a report by the Tri-Valley Herald newspaper, quoting the Fish and Wildlife Service as seeing Kenetech turbines "as potential threats to the migratory birds," was fair, Alderson referred to the particular activities of one agent of the service. He said: "The newspapers will choose on any particular instance to write a story which will get readership."

Earlier, Alderson described Kenetech as a "relatively large public company" providing products and services to electric utilities. He said Kenetech builds and operates "fossil fuel plants for utilities primarily in the United States" and operates and maintains " a variety of utility power stations which include fossil fuels, biomass, wind and nuclear." He did not say that wind makes up by far the majority of Kenetech's business.

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