16.11 PR: Locate Information from Sources

Here is just a tiny sample of the information contributors you could tap and the information they might provide to help you focus your messages.

Public-sector Institutions

The Department of the Interior, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Wind Energy Guidelines provide detailed specifications for the way wind energy facilities must operate, including ways to reduce bird and other animal mortality. You might suggest posting a link to these guidelines on the AWEA’s website and include some narrative about the ways your members are complying with the regulations. You might also include this document and some of the data about compliance to your association members as part of their “talking points” material. This document could also be shared as part of a news conference or in any statement your ED might issue to the media.

Private-sector Institutions

The National Academy of Sciences, a widely-respected, private-sector, non-profit organization, conducted a study about other causes of bird mortality in addition to those caused by the wind power industry. It appears from this study that bird mortality from other causes is much greater than bird deaths from wind power facilities. You might, once again, consider posting a link to this study on the AWEA’s website, compose some narrative that summarizes the findings of the study and make sure any public statements or “talking points” include the results. At the same time, you need to be sure that you don’t minimize the concern for bird mortality rates caused by wind power.

The National Wind Coordinating Collaborative is a private-sector, non-profit organization with partners from the wind industry, science and environmental organizations, and wildlife management agencies. They did a study of wind-wildlife interactions that summarized a huge amount of scientific and scholarly data and produced a fact sheet that outlines how the wind power industry and environmentalists are responding to the issue. This document would clearly be part of your information package.

Scholarly Sources

Conducting a search in Google Scholar using the search statement “bird mortality from wind energy” uncovers hundreds of scholarly studies done in the U.S. and around the world. The general consensus appears to say that there is a clear link between wind turbines and bird mortality, but there are lots of caveats in the findings.

One article in the scholarly journal Biological Conservation shows that bird mortality is greater with a type of wind turbine that is being phased out (lattice vs. monopole); that taller monopole turbines may pose more risk of raptor bird mortality than shorter monopole turbines because raptors fly at a higher elevation than song birds (the usual victims of wind turbines), but that the blades on taller monopole turbines turn at a slower rate than the blades on shorter turbines so those risks may offset one another. Again, the data from studies such as this one would need to be summarized and included in any messages you generate.

Journalistic Sources

A search for journalistic coverage of this issue turns up thousands of news stories, including recent reports about offshore wind farms that pose fewer risks to birds than land-based turbines. Many news stories have been written about opposition to wind farms because of concerns about wildlife mortality, and there is state and local-level opposition as well as national-level concern. At the same time, editorials supporting wind energy as an alternative to the more harmful effects of other types of energy production have appeared in a number of newspapers in communities where the issue is of particular concern. This might suggest a list of news organizations you would want to target for your news releases since you know they have written about the issue and are open to a nuanced approach to the problem. You could also create a Google Alert on the topic so you would be notified whenever a new news story appears.

Informal Sources

You would want to monitor social media chatter about the most recent raptor mortality/wind power study and pay attention to those individuals and groups who seem to be most influential or have the largest followings. You could create a set of alerts on the most popular social media sites to be notified whenever there are new postings. You could then decide whether or not to respond based on the type of information in the postings or the likely impact of the messages. Additionally, you might suggest that the AWEA reach out to the most vocal individual opponents of wind energy (you would be able to generate a list of their names from the news stories you found) and incorporate their perspectives and concerns into your responses where appropriate.


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Information Strategies for Communicators Copyright © 2015 by Kathleen A. Hansen and Nora Paul is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.