Friday, June 19, 2009

The Pros and Cons of Wind Power

With a new administration in the White House I have been hopeful that the US will finally get back on track as far as environmental issues. So far the Obama administration and the democratic congress have not made many large law or policy reforms when it comes to the environment. However I believe that once they have taken care of some of the other large issues, like the economy and the wars, that they will turn their sight on passing reforms designed to help the environment.
One of the big pushes so far has been to move to cleaner forms of energy, like wind power. Unfortunately nothing is free and even though wind power is much better for the environment then nuclear, coal, or other fossil fuels their are still trade offs. There are a couple of problems with wind farms that make them less green then most people think. First they take up potential habitat for wildlife, I do not consider this a huge problem because they do not take up any more habitat then things like strip mining and oil rigs the bigger problem is with bird and bat turbine collisions. Collisions kill many birds and bats each year especially during migration. With the plan to expand the number of wind farms how will this effect avian population?
Fortunately, according to an article at the American Bird Conservancy website, environmental groups, companies and the government are beginning to look into the effect that wind farms will have on birds, bats and migration and are formulating ways that they can minimize the impact. The article talks about projects where bird friendly organizations, like Audubon, American Bird Conservancy, Cornell and the Nature Conservancy are working to determine areas where wind farms may be a hazard to birds and thus should not be built. The US Fish and Wildlife Service is working on their recommendations on how to protect birds from wind farms and a wind energy company in Texas that uses radar to turn off wind turbines when a number of birds are present.
All of these positive steps are great but unfortunately not everyone is on board. The article speaks about projects in North and South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas which are on the fast track to be built which may effect species like the endangered whooping cranes. Whoopers are already susceptible to collisions with things like power lines and transmission towers, many new wind turbines on their migration path would undoubtedly provide increased risk to this already endangered species.


sixstars said...

Great whooping crane pictures thats a really beautiful bird. Maybe you could put ultrasonic transmitters in the tips of the blades that only bats could hear that might deter them. Im not sure why the birds fly into the blades maybe its at night but if not you could try painting the blades colours birds are more likely to see using their four colour eyes not our RGB.

troutbirder said...

I think they are possibly attracted to the blinking lights. Have seen bad results especially during foggy periods. Many birds killed and found on the ground below a local TV tower.

Equidae said...

in Malta they proposed a wind farm on sea near a shearwater conservatiob project....i hope it wont happen but i got doubts

Chris said...

I guess this is not easy to tackle as every human activity has an impact on wildlife even the "green" power farm!!!
In Netherlands and Belgium, they are putting these wind farms at sea for the moment because it looks like it has less effect on the environment there. That's waht they say but has long as studies are not done, nobody really know.
Gorgeous shots of the crane...

Babooshka said...

This is a really interesting comprehensive article. We have them here and with mixed results. Such a windy place the UK does benefit but the cost to wildlife is a huge concern and a compromise is being sort and better placement.