Solar power vs. endangered birds

Plans for North America's biggest solar-power farm could endanger one of the continent's most endangered bird species, the eastern loggerhead shrike, according to a Canadian conservation group.

Only 30 or so pairs of eastern loggerhead shrikes exist in the wild. At least one pair of shrikes is known to nest in the very same pasture where a 19-megawatt solar plant is being planned in Stone Mills, Ontario. A groundbreaking ceremony for the plant took place last week.

According to Elaine Williams, executive director of Wildlife Preservation Canada, the municipality of Stone Mills has previously turned down requests to build in the area, since it was a known habitat for the endangered birds.

"Loss of habitat has been the major cause of the eastern loggerhead shrike's decline in recent years," according to a report in the Kingston Whig-Standard. The Nature Conservancy of Canada says "Shrikes are a classic example of an 'area-sensitive species' since, like many grassland irds, they require large areas of open terrain before they are comfortable enough to nest."

The Stone Mills solar energy park is due to go online in late 2009, when it will provide "clean renewable energy sufficient to power more than 2,000 homes annually," according to project partner SkyPower.

We've already seen species put at risk from biofuel production and, to a lesser degree, from wind-power farms. Expect to see more of these conflicts in the future as going green creates its own environmental costs and impacts.

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