Bird Deaths – High Voltage Power Lines

The Sherwood Park News reports that AltaLink and the Avian Power Line Interaction Committee recently hosted a workshop on bird deaths resulting from electrocution and collision with overhead power lines and towers. RETA criticized some of the mitigation measures as inadequate.

Electricity transmission companies have been developing measures for years in an attempt to mitigate the high numbers of bird deaths resulting primarily from collision with high voltage power lines and towers. They have tried using markers, flags and other diverters to decrease bird deaths that are reported in the literature to be up to 214 deaths/kilometre of power line/year (and even higher in ideal avian habitat). Estimates of bird deaths in most studies are generally considered to be low due to a number of factors including: inability to find dead birds that have crashed into lines, injured birds that are able to crawl away from under the lines and die later some distance from the lines, predators consuming dead birds before they can be found and counted, etc.

Avian biologists for Strathcona County (Dr. Erin Bayne) and RETA (John Kristensen) presented evidence at the recent Alberta Utilities Commission hearing on the proposed 500kV double-circuit Heartland line that would have towers up to 77m tall. Evidence focused on studies that estimated the magnitude of bird deaths from collision with overhead high voltage lines. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates up to 174 million bird deaths annually in the U.S. from collisions with overhead transmission lines. Studies in North Dakota prairie wetlands estimate 124 bird deaths/kilometre/year. In the Netherlands, studies have estimated 58 bird deaths/kilometre/year, 113 deaths/km/yr and 464 deaths/km/yr in agricultural lands, grassland and near rivers, respectively. See this Fact Sheet for some of these studies.

Based on extrapolations from the literature, and the high numbers of birds and bird species present along the proposed Heartland power line, as many as 14,000 birds could get killed annually along the 66-kilometre overhead line between the Ellerslie community in Edmonton and the Industrial Heartland. The only way to effectively reduce bird deaths from collision with power lines and towers is to bury the lines, especially near areas with known high bird populations. Simply put, buried power lines do not kill birds.

Putting markers or diverters on high voltage lines is just a band-aid solution. Not only do birds continue to get killed, but the markers add to the unsightliness of the already unsightly lines and towers.

Read about the many other benefits of burying high voltage lines.

~ by RETA on August 23, 2011.

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