Several proposed wind farms to be located on the Texas coast have drawn scrutiny from the environmental community. Ironically, despite the potential of wind power as a green energy resource, the turbines may create a deadly trap for migratory birds. The wind farm proposed offshore from Galveston will be located in the primary migration pathway for nearctic-neotropical birds. Another wind farm proposed for the Kenedy Ranch on the central Texas coast will also lie in a critical migration pathway.
Recent developments in California may set a precedent for wind farms in the future. Half of the aging turbines at Altamont Pass east of San Francisco will be shut down for four months during bird migration in response to threat of a legal suit by environmentalists. The Altamont wind farm has long been known as a killer of large numbers of birds. A 2004 report by the California Energy Commission found that over a thousand raptors are killed each year at Altamont, including a number of Golden Eagles. The environmentalists are not opposed to wind energy but believe that they should be located in less sensitive areas. Jeff Miller of the Center for Biological Diversity stated that they must be built in areas where they will have minimal impact on wildlife. "We definitely support wind power, but it needs to be sited in appropriate areas."
Which brings us back to the Texas coast. While we do know that this area is the primary flyway for migrants, there are no studies to measure the impacts of wind turbines on migratory passerines. Several ideas have been put forth, but the science is still in its infancy. With the California agreement as a precedent, The Gulf Coast Bird Observatory will join the community of concerned citizens to hopefully ensure that the proposed wind farms come with the necessary provisions to protect migratory birds.