Hawaii's wind turbines deadly to birds and flying animalsUPDATED 8:35 PM HST May 02, 2014Video Transcript
Exclusive tonight ... WINDMILL KILLS... The frightening side-effect to Hawaii's renewable energy push... Thanks for joining us, I'm Yunji de Nies. And I'm Paula Akana. Hawaii's wind turbines might be good for energy, but they're proving to be bad for birds. KITV4's Andrew Pereira dug up documents detailing dozens of deadly strikes... including endangered species and even our state bird. :19 :51 1:04 1:27 2:27-2:32 WIND MILL SWOOSH Call it the winds of change... In 2012, 29 percent of Hawaii's renewable energy came from these spinning giants. However birds and other flying animals were here first, and when the two collide, the turbines always win. ANGELA HUNTEMER: "UNFORTUNATELY THAT MAY JUST BE THE PRICE WE HAVE TO PAY FOR WIND ENERGY, RENEWABLE ENERGY." According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 195 birds and other flying animals have been killed by turbines at five of the largest wind farms on Maui and Oahu since Aug. 2007. Turbines don't play favorites. They kill every type of bird. Even endangered ones. The Blackburn's sphinx moth, the Hawaiian Hoary Bat, the Hawaiian Petrel, and our beloved state bird -- the nene -- have all fallen victim. ANDREW PEREIRA: "HOWEVER SUPPORTERS OF WIND POWER POINT TO THE FACT THAT MORE BIRDS ARE KILLED BY BUILDINGS AND POWER LINES EVERY YEAR THAN TURBINES SUCH AS THESE." CAROLYN UNSER: "IN THE END OUR PROJECTS CREATE A NET CONSERVATION BENEFIT FOR THESE SPECIES IN HAWAII AND THAT MEANS INCREASING THEIR NUMBERS FOR YEARS TO COME." At Kawailoa Wind Farm above Oahu's North Shore, a habitat conservation plan developed by First Wind and Carolyn Unser is nearly as massive as the 30 turbines. Nearly 500 pages long, the document outlines how the company can reduce incidental strikes and actually provide a net benefit to threatened and endangered species. The Makamakaole project on Maui provides a predator-free home for Newell shearwaters and Hawaiian petrels... all built and paid for by First Wind. CAROLYN UNSER: "AND WHAT THAT DOES IS IT PROVIDES A SAFE AREA FOR THOSE BIRDS TO CREATE A HABITAT AND A BREEDING AREA FOR YEARS TO COME." But endangered animals are endangered for a reason. It's believed the nene and Hawaiian hoary bat number just a few thousand, but are the most common endangered species killed by wind turbines. In the more than 6 years of data looked at by KITV4, 25 hoary bats and 20 nene died after flying into the spinning blades. First Wind tracks those incidental kills with the help of Murphy... "MURPHY GETTING OUT OF KENNEL" ...a 2-year-old yellow Lab anxious to please his handler and best friend Deborah Wilson. "DEBORAH COMMANDING DOG" On this day, no birds or bats for Murphy to find, but he and Wilson are constantly tested. DEBORAH WILSON: "HE EXPECTS TO FIND SOMETHING WHETHER IT'S ONE OF HIS TARGET ODORS OR SOMETHING THAT'S BEEN PUT OUT TO CHECK OUR EFFICIENCY." First Wind is also helping researchers find out more about this little guy... the elusive Hawaiian hoary bat. One hundred wildlife acoustic song meters track the tiny creature's movement across hundreds of acres. CAROLYN UNSER: "AND IT ALLOWS US TO SEE WHEN THEY'RE MOST ACTIVE; WHAT TIME OF THE DAY AND WHAT TIME OF THE YEAR." Although First Wind is revealing itself as a good environmental steward, incidental kills have some locals wondering whether the North Shore has reached its wind power limit. ANGELA HUNTEMER: "I WOULD DEFINITELY LIKE TO SEE A MORATORIUM ON WIND POWER, AT LEAST IN OUR AREA ON OAHU AND PERHAPS AROUND THE ISLANDS WHERE THERE ARE BIRDS THAT FREQUENT THE AREA THAT ARE PROTECTED." Although killing endangered and protected species is illegal under federal law, wind farms in Hawaii are allowed to operate under waivers and incidental take permits. Paula?