Red Kites slow wind power expansion

Red Kite

Conservation initiatives and the strictly protected red kite, Milvus milvus prove to be the biggest obstacles to wind power development in Germany . The ambitious goals of both the current federal government and especially the red-green state governments are in danger .

In particular, the requirement to use increasingly forest sites as locations for 200 -meter high wind turbines, met with criticism. One example is in Baden-Wuerttemberg. In the focus of the current debate is a forest about five hectares in size to be cut down in the middle of the “Great Hau” at Horb in the Black Forest to establish windmill farm. But the forest is not only a popular recreational area, it is also home to many protected animals . For decades, the forest has been converted to quite a natural forest, which is particularly rich in species. Again there are the Red Kites that curb further expansion of wind power .

In the specific case at least it did not take long until a citizens’ initiative formed against the plans of the town of Horb . There were information-events, petitions and a forest festival, visited by hundreds of citizens. Also, the Conservation Assosiation “Nabu” rejected the site due to nature protection reasons. However, the city was fiercely determined . “We knew that only the Red Kite can help now,” said a representative of a local conservation initiative. In fact, the initiative could rely on the strictly protected raptor. Today, the wind farm project is stopped. The authorities in Karlsruhe gave priority to the protection of that species .

The case Horb illustrates the dilemma for the green-red state government. In the second year after the change of government nothing can be seen from a wind power boom. Just nine plants were built in the Southwest in 2012. From the target to increase the proportion of wind power in the country from 1 to 10 percent by 2020, Green-Red is miles away. And especially nature conservation activists and protected species such as bats and Red Kite make green-red most concerned.

The Red Kite is a real knock-out criterion for the location planning. If Red Kites are detected at one location , the wind power operators do often refrain from itself from planning . The Red Kite is indeed strictly protected , but quite widespread in Baden -Wuerttemberg. And the Kite very often falls victim to wind turbines . The Red Kite is hunting in open areas and exactly in the altitudes at which the rotors operate. Repeatedly kites are found as “impact victims” . a radius of at least 1.000 meters to Red Kite´s nesting grounds are therefore considered taboo for wind turbines.

The search for suitable construction sites is also difficult because often other users have already taken hold at topographically suitable locations in the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg. Especially the most productive altitudes for wind power there are frequent conflicts with radio equipment such as the weather radar of the German Weather Service, the radio or the radio stations of the Federal Network Agency. Therefore political leaders had great expecations on wind power on forested slopes or ridges. Huge areas in Baden-Wuerttemberg are state forest land. At eleven locations the forest administration had already set plans for more than 70 wind turbines in preparation, says the Environmental Ministry of Baden -Wuerttemberg, at twelve other locations planning could start. Now, only the Red Kite should not live in the woods.

Birds that hinder or even prevent major infrastructure projects is not so new. Even from the 80’s dated a dispute over the Corncrake (Crex crex), which prevented 20 years ago the construction of the autobahn A26 from Cuxhaven to Hamburg. While commuters stood for hours in the traffic jam on the country road B 73 nature conservation activists studied the Corncrake, which was claimed by others, that no one had ever seen it.

Other infrastructure projects for the so-called Energiewende (energy transition process) are under attack, too. Plans of the Energieallianz Bayern (Energy Alliance Bavaria), a consortium of municipal utilities such as the Stadtwerke Bad Tolz are on the table. It is planned to create a reservoir beneath the summit Jochberg , pumping water during low-load times with excess energy from renewable power plants. The water shall then be discharged early in the morning or on the evening when enery consumption is at its peak through turbines inside the mountain from the lake at an altidude of 1400 meters to the Walchensee located on 600 meters. Consequently fluctuations in the electricity grid are to be offset caused by solar and wind power plants production time. But now the Commission for the Protection of the Alps Cipra Germany rejected the recently proposed pumped storage plant at Jochberg. In a press conference the club presented its position paper on energy policy in the Alps , the project was called an “attack on our Bavarian Alps”. From the perspective of Cipra not only the massive land consumption speaks against the construction of new pumped storage: In addition to the immense intervention in the alpine nature and the cultural landscape, the hydrological regime would fundamentally alter and the project would destroy the habitat of animals and plants. An example is the Citril Finch, Serinus citrinella, who lives on Jochberg .

Almost a year Cipra had struggled for a position in the Energiewende. Why has it taken so long to find a position gets clear we you look at the structure of the association: In the Cipra , the German branch of the Commission International pour la protection des Alpes, eight organizations sit together, including the German Alpine Club (DAV) , the national federation for protection of birds and the BN. These are organizations with quite differing positions. But the pumped storage plant at Jochberg was rejected across all barriers. The Cipra claims that the pumped storage plant at Jochberg could be no concept of the energy transition. If you need 200 to 250 sites for plants for leveling of energy supply and demand, nothing would remain of the Alps. A position, that is not only true for pumped storage plants, but also for other aspects of renewable energy which might be different in technology but are united in one feature:  massive land consumption!

The Red Kite is a character bird of richly structured landscapes with copses and forests in Central Europe. Approximately 65 % of the world’s population of Red Kite is found in Germany . With this high percentage of the world’s population Germany has a special responsibility for the protection of species. Since the late 1970s , the population declined. In the lowlands even a large-scale retreat is observed. In recent years although, a positive population development could be observerd, due to which the Red Kite was released from the Red List. Future intensification of agriculture and the increasing use of wind energy as described above will probably drive the population trends down again .
The Red Kite has foraging preference for farmland with a mosaic of meadows and fields. The breeding site however is found in small copses, in light woods and the forest edges of larger forests . Red Kites are pretty faithful to their breeding ground and use old nests often over many years. In flight the deeply forked tail of the red kite can be seen very well . The Red Kite looks much bigger and heavier than a Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) though the kite is only slightly larger with a body length of 60-70 cm.

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