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Texas Wind Farm Protects Migrating Birds with Radar

windfarmA wind farm in southern Texas, situated on a migratory flight path used by millions of birds each autumn and spring, is pioneering the use of radar technology to avoid deadly collisions between migrating birds and its 2,500-pound rotating blades, reports the Guardian News.

The 202-megawatt farm, operated by Spanish company Iberdrola Renewables, is using radar systems originally developed for NASA and the U.S. Air Force to detect approaching birds from as far as four miles away, to enable it to shut down automatically if bad weather hits in peak migration times, reports the online newspaper.

According to an annual study by the American Wind Energy Association, based on 2008 year-end numbers, Texas is leading in wind capacity with 7,118 MW of installed capacity.

Guardian News reports that U.S. wind farms kill about 7,000 birds a year, according to a recent study, with other studies indicating that individual wind farms take a higher toll on bats and birds, which crash into towers, blades, power lines and other installations.

If this new technology, developed by DeTect Inc., works, it should ease major concerns by conservationists who oppose wind farm projects because of wildlife concerns. Many recent wind farm proposals, including those in Florida and Cape Cod, Massachusetts, have been stopped in their tracks in part by environmental concerns.

However, conservationists still argue that wind farms should be situated away from migration routes in the first place, and that the technology does not solve the problem of installations that disturb bird and animal habitats and nesting grounds, reports Guardian News.

Google recently launched a service that allows companies to survey potential build sites, while considering the native flora and fauna.

The National Audubon Society and the Natural Resources Defense Council have pooled resources such as maps of endangered species habitats, national parks and other forms of protected land. By uploading the data to Google Earth, the information is now easily accessible to renewable energy firms and other companies that want to consider the environmental impact of building projects. The mapping feature, which covers 13 western states, is available here.

Another similar online resource, the Integrated Biodiversity Assessment Tool, is custom-designed for businesses. It was developed by BirdLife International, Conservation International and the United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

BP and Cargill, among other large firms, aided in the design of the biodiversity assessment tool.

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