[Music]>>TEXAS IS THE WILD WEST WHEN IT COMES TO WIND ENERGY. WITH LITTLE REGULATORY OVERSIGHT, AND WITH AMPLE STATE AND FEDERAL SUPPORT, THIS NEW FRONTIER HAS QUICKLY SPREAD ACROSS PARTS OF THE STATE. FROM THE PANHANDLE ALL THE WAY DOWN TO THE SOUTHERN COAST, TEXAS NOW LEADS THE COUNTRY IN WIND ENERGY PRODUCTION.>>IT DOESN’T USE WATER, IT DOESN’T HAVE ANY POLLUTING EFFECTS, AND IT HAS A BIG SOCIOECONOMIC EFFECT. [Wind Turbines]>>THERE’S MYTHS THAT THESE ARE BIRD AND BAT BLENDERS, AND SO I THINK THEN THERE’S A LOT OF PRESSURE ON THIS TECHNOLOGY OF HOW GREEN ARE YOU REALLY, ARE YOU PERFECTLY GREEN, A LITTLE BIT GREEN OR MEDIUM GREEN.>>NOW THERE ARE PRESSING CONCERNS ABOUT THE EFFECTS WIND FARMS HAVE ON THE SHRINKING PRISTINE NATIVE HABITATS AND WHAT IT WILL DO TO THE FRAGILE BIRDS THAT LIVE THERE.>>WE’RE CONCERNED ABOUT THIS BECAUSE IF THE SITUATION IS LIKE THIS NOW IN WHAT WE THINK IS GOOD HABITAT, I’M NOT SURE WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN WHEN WE PUT WIND DEVELOPMENT ON TOP. [Wind]>>80 MILES NORTHWEST OF DALLAS SITS NEXT ERA ENERGY’S WOLF RIDGE SITE, WITH 75 WIND TURBINES CRANKING ELECTRICITY FOR THE METROPLEX. [Wind] AND WHEN IT’S TIME FOR A ROUTINE MAINTENANCE CHECK… IT’S A LONG CLIMB TO THE TOP.>>RIGHT NOW WE’RE 286 FEET ABOVE THE GROUND, WITH THESE BLADES POINTED UP, FROM THE TIP OF THE BLADE TO THE GROUND IS 400 FEET.>>THE TURBINES AT WOLF RIDGE GENERATE ENOUGH ELECTRICITY TO POWER UP TO 34,000 HOMES.>>THE WIND TURBINE HUB YOU WANT IT FACING THE WIND COMING AT YOU. OR YOU WANT IT FACING AT A 90 DEGREE FOR THE WIND, SO THAT IT MAKES IT VERY ECONOMICAL AND GET’S MAX PRODUCTION OUT OF EM.>>IT HADN’T BEEN BUT A YEAR AND THEY ALREADY LOOK LIKE THEY’VE BEEN HERE FOREVER.>>WHILE DALLAS FORT WORTH GETS THE ELECTRICITY, LOCAL LANDOWNERS WHO LEASE THEIR PROPERTY FOR WIND ENERGY GET A CASH WINDFALL.>>IT’S JUST REALLY BAFFLED ME I GUESS TO BE ABLE TO BE IN THE BEGINNING OF SOMETHING LIKE THIS.>>ROLAND BELL HAS THREE WIND TURBINES ON HIS TUMBLING B RANCH.>>WE’VE BEEN ALL SO CONCERNED WITH ENERGY, SO TO ME IT LOOKS LIKE IT’S JUST A START ON THE RIGHT TRACK YA KNOW IN FOUR OR FIVE YEARS IT’LL BE JUST LIKE WINDMILLS OR WHATEVER YOU’LL BE JUST LIKE PART OF TEXAS.>>AND WHILE EACH TEXAN IS COMPENSATED DIFFERENTLY… A LANDOWNER CAN MAKE ANYWHERE FROM 5 TO 10 THOUSAND DOLLARS A YEAR PER TURBINE PLUS AN ANNUAL ROYALTY PAYMENT OFF OF THE ELECTRICITY PRODUCED.>>DOES IT LOOK LIKE IT’S A FRESH KILL FROM LAST NIGHT OR THIS MORNING?>>DEFINITELY!>>BUT THERE ARE SERIOUS CONCERNS ABOUT BIRDS ANDS BATS THAT ARE KILLED BY WIND TURBINES.>>I’D SAY SINCE JULY WE DEFINITELY ARE FINDING MORE BATS THAN BIRDS.>>AMANDA HALE AND STUDENTS FROM TEXAS CHRISTIAN UNIVERSITY ARE COLLECTING DEAD BIRDS AND BATS AT WOLF RIDGE. THIS IS AN EASTERN RED BAT.>>MANY BATS ARE ACTUALLY DIEING FROM WHAT’S CALLED BAROTRAUMA.>>AND BEHIND THOSE SWINGING BLADES THERE’S AN AREA OF LOW PRESSURE, WHEN THE BATS ENTER INTO THOSE AREAS OF LOW PRESSURE, THE BLOOD VESSELS IN THEIR LUNG BURST, SO THEY’RE LUNGS FILL WITH BLOOD AND THE EFFECTIVELY DROWN AND FALL TO THE GROUND AND DIE.>>THE GOAL IS TO HELP ESTIMATE HOW MANY BIRDS AND BATS ARE ACTUALLY BEING KILLED BY WIND TURBINES HERE AT THIS SIGHT.>>BOY IT LOOKS LIKE A FRESH KILL DOESN’T IT. IT’S A SMALL BIRD, I WOULD SAY IT’S A YOUNG OF THE YEAR JUVENILE RED-TAILED HAWK. LET’S SEE IF WE CAN TURN IT OVER AND SEE WHAT SORT OF DAMAGE IT HAS. THERE’S BLOOD ON THE BILL SO IT PROBABLY HIT ITS HEAD FIRST.>>WE HOPE IT’S GOING TO HELP US ANSWER A LOT OF THE QUESTIONS THAT WE HAVE RIGHT NOW ABOUT WIND ENERGY. ARE THEY DETRIMENTAL TO POPULATIONS, IS IT A MINIMAL IMPACT OR IS IT A LARGE IMPACT.>>ONE OF THE REASONS WE’RE OUT HERE LOOKING FOR CARCASSES IS THAT WE WANT TO BE ABLE TO PREDICT MORTALITY. SO IF WE FIND FOR EXAMPLE THAT MOST OF THE MORTALITY AT THIS SIGHT IS OCCURRING AT THOSE TURBINES WHICH ARE CLOSE TO FORESTED RIDGES OR THAT ARE CLOSE TO WATER SOURCES. THEN FOR FUTURE WIND FARMS THAT INFORMATION CAN BE INCORPORATED INTO THE PLANNING AND TURBINES CAN BE PLACED TO AVOID THOSE SENSITIVE AREAS.>>WHILE WIND FARMS LIKE WOLF RIDGE UTILIZE EXISTING AGRICULTURE LAND. [Bird call] OUT IN THE PANHANDLE WIND DEVELOPMENT IS PUSHING INTO UNTOUCHED NATIVE GRASS PRAIRIES. AND THAT IS STRESSING THIS THREATENED BIRD. THE LESSER PRAIRIE-CHICKEN. [Lesser Prairie-chicken call]>>LESSER PRAIRIE-CHICKENS ARE AN ICON OF THE PRAIRIE. [Lesser Prairie-chicken call] THEY ARE ONE OF THE LAST MOST BEAUTIFUL SPECIES TO NEED LARGE ACREAGES, BIG COUNTRY OF NATIVE RANGELAND TO SUSTAIN THEMSELVES.>>YOU CAN HEAR EM BOOMING IN THE MORNINGS.>>BIOLOGIST HEATHER WHITLAW WORKS WITH PANHANDLE RANCHERS LIKE LACY VARDEMAN.>>LOT’S OF OPEN RANGELAND AND OPEN SPACES.>>HERE THE RANCH MAKES SURE THERE ARE ALWAYS TALL GRASSES SET ASIDE FOR NESTING.>>YOU CAN START WITH SMALL STEPS TO KEEP THE PRAIRIE CHICKEN IN THIS AREA, IT’S A LOT OF FUN TO HEAR THEM AND SEE THEM.>>THE CONCERN IS THESE THREATENED BIRDS WON’T NEST ANYWHERE NEAR TALL STRUCTURES FOR FEAR OF PREDATORS.>>THEY DON’T DO WELL WITH CHANGE ON THE LANDSCAPE, AND WE THINK THAT WE’RE DISPLACING OR MOVING A NESTING FEMALE AWAY FROM WHERE SHE WANT’S TO BE AND WE DON’T HAVE MUCH HABITAT LEFT FOR HER TO GO TO.>>TO SEE IT JUST MULTIPLY IN THE WAY THAT IT HAS, AND REALLY TAKE OFF. AND I’M AFRAID THEY ARE GOING TO PUT ALL OF THOSE UP AND WERE GOING TO RUIN THE HABITAT IN THIS AREA AND BE LEFT WITH SCARRED LAND. [Wind turbines turning]>>WE NEED TO ARRANGE THIS LAST TRAP LINE.>>TO TAKE A CLOSE LOOK AT HOW MANY PRAIRIE CHICKENS RELY ON NATIVE GRASS PRAIRIES, THESE TEXAS TECH GRAD STUDENTS ARE SETTING UP SOME TRAPS. [bird flushes]>>THE LESSER PRAIRIE CHICKEN WAS ONCE FOUND IN 34 COUNTIES IN THE TEXAS PANHANDLE, NOW IT’S ONLY FOUND IN 14 COUNTIES. SCIENTISTS BELIEVE THAT CONVERSION OF NATIVE HABITAT TO AGRICULTURE AND OIL FIELDS IS THE PRIMARY CAUSE.>>THIS MORNING THE BIRDS ARE SLUGGISH AND WARY.>>BLAKE, WE HAVE A MALE UP ON THE TRAP, LOOKS LIKE IT’S ONE OF THE COLOR BANDED MALES. [Running for trap] IT’S A MAD RUSH, WE RUN OUT OF THE CAR, RUN TO THE TRAP. GET TO THE BIRD AS FAST AS POSSIBLE WITH-OUT HAVING THE BIRD DO TOO MUCH DAMAGE TO ITSELF. NEW?>>HE’S A NEWBIE MINIMAL DAMAGE, A LITTLE BIT CUT ON HIS CERE, BUT HE’S ALL RIGHT. OUR ULTIMATE GOAL IS TO PROVIDE INFORMATION.>>GOT EM! TO ENERGY PRODUCERS AND TO THE GENERAL PUBLIC. [Wind Turbines] WE ARE CURRENTLY IN THE GOLD RUSH STATE WITH WIND ENERGY IN TEXAS, PUT EM UP ANYWHERE YOU WANT AND I THINK IT’S ONLY RESPONSIBLE…. WILL GET A BLACK BAND OVER THE ALUMINUM BAND. …AS HUMAN BEINGS WE ASSESS WHAT’S GOING ON BEFORE WE PLACE THEM ON THE LANDSCAPE. [Bird flies off]>>HE’S GOOD!>>AND WHILE THIS NEW ENERGY INDUSTRY MAY WELL BE AN IMPROVEMENT FROM WHERE WE’VE BEEN, THE HOPE IS THE RESEARCH FROM WOLF RIDGE AND FROM THE PANHANDLE WILL HELP. [Lesser Prairie-Chicken calls] AS WIND DEVELOPMENT KEEPS CRANKING HERE IN TEXAS.>>WE’RE TRYING TO GET THE WIND COMPANIES TO DO THE RIGHT THING, TO LOOK AT ALL THE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS THAT THEY POTENTIALLY COULD HAVE AND REDUCE THEIR FOOTPRINT ON THE LANDSCAPE SO THAT THEY ARE THE GREEN INDUSTRY THAT WE KNOW THEY CAN BE.