DATE:  October 15, 2004
CONTACT: Dr. Robert Benson, Director, Center for Bioacoustics, (361) 825-3888; Steve Paschal, Public Affairs, (361) 825-2336
AUDIO: Center for Bioacoustics Study
Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi Professor Chosen to Lead Radar Analysis of Avian Risk Assessment Program

Director of A&M-CC Center for Bioacoustics Dr. Robert Benson to study environmental effects of 400 Megawatt Wind Farm on the Coastal Bend

Dr. Robert Benson, director of Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi's Center for Bioacoustics, has been selected to lead the radar analysis of an avian risk assessment program for the Peñascal Wind Farm project. The Peñascal Wind Farm is a proposed 400 megawatt wind energy generation facility to be constructed in several phases in Kenedy County. 

Once completed, the Peñascal Wind Farm will generate emissions-free renewable electricity sufficient to cover the annual usage of more than 120,000 homes in South Texas. The 400 MW-facility will displace emissions of billions of pounds of greenhouse gases normally created by fossil fuel electrical power generation and will save more than 800 million gallons of annual water usage associated with fossil fuel power generation. The combined human health impacts of generating electrical power from this wind energy plant will result in saving hundreds of lives a year and will eliminate thousands of emergency room visits for respiratory ailments such as asthma.

As part of this development, the Peñascal Wind Farm project is undertaking a comprehensive analysis of the risks to bird populations, both migrating and resident, that could be affected. For this bird risk assessment, the Center for Bioacoustics has installed a Nobeltec radar unit on the proposed site that will monitor and record diurnal and nocturnal bird movements. Wildlife biologists from Texas A&M University-Kingsville are being trained in the use of radar ornithology. After training, these biologists will work with Dr. Benson to document and record bird movements using these advanced technological features.

“The Nobeltec radar can detect small flocks of birds out to a range of eight miles,” explained Benson. “By tracking the flight corridors being used by the birds, it may be possible to site the future wind turbines in areas with very little bird traffic.”