2 refuges to get bird-friendly wind power

Turbines will be used to power US Fish & Wildlife facilities at the refuges

Posted: Friday, May 14, 2010

ANCHORAGE - Work is under way to install nearly a dozen odd-looking wind turbines at two remote Alaska refuges important to hundreds of thousands of migratory birds.

The plan is to have the electricity-generating wind turbines at Izembek National Wildlife Refuge in Cold Bay and Alaska Peninsula National Wildlife Refuge in King Salmon up and spinning by the end of summer.

The cylindrical turbines will be used to power U.S. Fish and Wildlife facilities at the refuges. Both refuges are important stopping off places for migratory birds, particularly Izembek, which has several large lagoons, including one stretching 30 miles long and five miles wide that provides food and shelter to an extraordinary array of birds.

The birds see the spinning cylinders as solid objects and therefore avoid them, said Nadia Daggett, operations manager at Alaskan Wind Industries in Nikiski, distributor of the Gale Vertical Axis Wind Turbine. The turbines are built by New Jersey-based Tangarie Alternative Power and are being installed by Marsh Creek LLC in Anchorage.

"They do look a little bit different," Daggett said. "The wind comes in from the bottom of the turbine and gets compressed throughout the surface area and pushes out the top."

The compact turbines are low-profile and good in fluctuating winds coming from different directions - something common in Alaska, Daggett said.

The turbines can generate electricity in winds as low as 4 mph and as high as 130 mph, depending upon the model. They are soundless units with nonreflecting surfaces to eliminate any strobe effect.

"It is a solid structure so birds see them and they're not going to run into them," Daggett said.

The project is being funded with $3.4 million in federal stimulus money through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. When fully operational, the 11 turbines will generate 35 kilowatts of electricity at Cold Bay and 20 kilowatts of power at King Salmon.

"They will increase the energy independence at these two U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service facilities and lower pollution; and are specifically designed to reduce the risk to migratory birds," Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a news release.

More than 200 species of birds have been spotted at the Alaska Peninsula National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge's cliffs, bays and wetlands provide abundant habitat for millions of birds that stop on their way to nesting grounds in the Arctic.

Izembek has several large lagoons that are used by hundreds of thousands of birds as a stopover during migration, including Pacific black brant and emperor geese.

Izembek also is the winter home to as many as 50,000 Steller's eiders, most of them from Russia. The Alaska population of diving ducks is considered threatened.

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