Windfarm on hold over bird highway row

A wind-farm project on the top of an Austrian mountain plateau has not been switched on over fears that it is in the middle of a key bird migration route and that the spinning blades could lead to thousands of bird deaths.

Austrian energy company Salzburg AG has invested in building the five giant wind turbines on the Windsfeld at Flachauwinkel in Pongau, part of the province of Salzburg. It confirmed that there were no plans for it to go into operation in the immediate future because the environmental protection department of the regional government had now launched an investigation over claims that it lay in the middle of a key bird migration route.

Green campaigner Walter Maier told local radio: “The wind park is on a plateau between two mountain ranges. Birds on a migratory route do not fly over mountings – they use the easiest alternative and in this case the two mountain ranges channel all of the birds towards the plateau which is the lowest point where they can cross.

“But now this point has been filled with wind farm propellers that are going to decimate wild bird populations. The long journey that these birds make from places as far afield as Africa is dangerous enough without building obstacle courses like this. It’s not possible to get the birds to go a different route – they follow landmarks that they have learned and they won’t change just because the propellers are there.”

Bird expert Sabine Werner agreed saying: “The birds need to cross over the Alps twice a year and they follow landmarks like rivers or mountain ranges. In this particular place the natural formations will channel the birds straight through to the wind park. Building wind parks on flat areas is not a problem because the birds will naturally go round them – in the Alps that is not the case. ”

Unfortunately the path of least resistance for the birds is also the best way for the wind to pass the mountains which channel it over the plateau making it the perfect place to locate the turbines – which is close to the northern entrance of the Tauern motorway tunnel.

The wide-ranging study commissioned by the local MP with environmental responsibility, Sepp Eisl (OeVP), will be looking into migratory routes and is expected to take about two years.