interviews

Sergio de Otto, Spanish Wind Energy Association (AEE): "A number of wind farms already hire biologists to warn when birds will be flying past wind farms so that turbines can be halted"

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The Spanish Wind Energy Association (AEE) represents the wind power sector within the different entities and administrations in Spain. It has a number of working groups that deal with almost all areas affecting wind power and also organises a wide range of events to analyse with sector professionals, the most important topics at the time and publication of reports and studies about the sector. The AEE is also the secretary of REOLTEC (Spain’s wind energy technological platform) and coordinates with ICEX the presence of the Spanish companies in trade fairs and conferences abroad. Sergio de Otto is the AEE’s Director of Communications and Coordinator of its Environment Commission. He is a well-known wind energy consultant in Spain and writes an opinion column for Energías Renovables, Renewable Energy Magazine’s sister publication in Spanish.

In this short interview, Sergio de Otto talks about the environmental impact of wind turbines in terms of bird deaths and what the AEE is being done to tackle this problem. He does not consider that wind turbines pose a serious threat to wildlife: “we cannot ignore this problem, although we should also not think that we are killing millions of birds.” The AEE ensures that it is sensitive to the problem of bird and bat deaths on wind farms and has even devised an action plan for 2009 to evaluate the danger wind turbines pose to birds.

Interview date: April, 2009

Interviewer: Javier Navarro

Does the AEE look the other way when the issue of bird deaths is raised?

No, not at all. The AEE is aware of the problem and is not going to turn a blind eye. Furthermore, this issue is of great concern to wind farm developers. We are therefore increasingly looking into this issue and are going to appoint Liquen, a well-known consultancy firm, to carry out an ambitious study to identify the true extent of the problem. Liquen will collate all field data on wind farms, which it will then analyse. We expect to present the final study at the end of 2009 in order to find out the truth about bird deaths.

In any event, do you consider that data available on bird deaths is exaggerated?

What we cannot do is extrapolate data from one wind farm across the whole of Spain. There are cases, for example, where bird deaths have risen because the number of birds visiting an area has gone up due to illegal waste dumps appearing near a wind farm, which originally did not have a waste dump near by. Besides, the objective of this study is to find out exactly what the situation is through the collection of specific data, since although wind farms do not kill millions of birds, we cannot say outright that wind farms do not have any impact. It is clearly a problem we want to tackle head on.

What do you think of the project being performed by the CSIC (Spanish National Research Council) to tackle this issue?

If the purpose of the study is to avoid bird deaths – very positive. Just as in the case of the measures taken by certain wind farms, which have hired biologists to warn when birds will be flying past wind farms so that turbines can be halted, as in Tarifa. We will have to wait and see what the scope of the CSIC project is, but we should undoubtedly take it into account when coordinating and grouping all the information on and raising awareness of this problem in order to take steps to develop corrective measures to stop bird deaths.

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