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Chris Keenan
Chris Keenan

Conflict between Wildlife and Wind Farms

Wind power is a great form of energy; there's no doubt about that. However, there have been recent threats to the wildlife population that have collided with these green efforts. This upcoming January 2012, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will publish new guidelines for wind farms. Some of these guidelines will be aimed at wind-farm operators, advising them on how to protect wildlife in conjunction with the wind farm. The reason for these new suggestions is because more and more endangered species have been killed in wind turbine blades. Most recently, an endangered bat was killed on a wind farm in Pennsylvania.

Deaths like these have brought concern to many environmentalists as well as the government. It is against federal law to kill any member of an endangered species, and wind farmers now face potential repercussions when the new guidelines are put in place. Recently, it's been reported that Pattern Energy Group has abandoned plans to construct a new wind farm in Sacramento because of concerns about the bald eagle population.

These wildlife concerns are as fresh as a newly painted garage door as ecologist David Cottingham explains, “We haven't really had too many wind turbines heretofore in the country, so we are learning about it as we go.†The number of wind farms has greatly grown in recent years. The precise number of bat deaths by wind turbines is not known, but some scientists have estimated that the numbers are in the thousands.

According to Ed Arnett, director of science and policy at Bat Conservation International, “Most biologists will tell you that over time and cumulatively, [bats] won't be able to sustain these fatality rates.â€Â  Arnett adds that continued research could help minimize wildlife deaths and that wind power doesn't necessarily have to be severely compromised. Arnett even stipulates that as little as 1 percent of wind power could be lost if farmers focus on shutting down during “danger periods.â€

How do you feel about the clash between wildlife and wind energy? Do you think the focus should shift to a less hazardous form of energy? Let us know in the comments!

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Of course we shouldn't build any big wind farms in areas where endangered wildlife lives. Just like we shouldn't be building houses or roads in such areas. I don't see anything negative with new guidelines for wind farms, as long as they are reasonable. I don't have much knowledge about the threats wind farms poses for bats. But when it comes to birds the reality is that wind farms are only responsible for a tiny number of bird deaths. According to studies power lines, cars, ordinary windows and cats poses a much bigger threat to birds than wind farms.

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Indeed windfarms can represent a potential hazard to birds and other wild life, if improperly sited and planned. However, we have to, as Simon's comment below points out, put this in the proper context. Many other things we take for granted kill thousands of birds and other endangered wildlife (often quite legally) a year an nobody looks at them twice. Notably we need to consider the fact that the biggest single threat to most endangered species is climate change. For every 1'C temperature change the various habitat zones for certain species of plants and animals can move up 100 to 300 miles north or south. In short, even the modest 2'C scenario we're now likely facing could cause a mass extinction of certain bird species. On this point I'm with the UK RSPB (Royal society for the Protection of Birds). Their policy towards windfarms is that they are supportive of wind energy in general (due to climate change), but they reserve the right to object to individual wind energy projects that they fear will have an adverse impact on endangered avian species. Also, I would note that, counter intuitively, large wind turbines are less of a risk to birds and other flying creatures as small wind turbines (as the radius of a turbine increases in a given constant wind speed the rpm decreases which also decreased the probability of a bird being in the same space at the same time as the turbine blade). So actually the bigger the turbines the better for the wildlife! 

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I am Elisa (Iedro volunteer). We like your blog! would you like to volunteer with us ? I am aware that you have your own blog, but I was wondering if you were maybe willing to have your articles posted on our website too, or to feature each other sites. Surely if you share our view and cause, which seems the case though..If you can suggest other ways to cooperate, we ll be glad to hear it!For the conversation to be easier,feel free to write to email@iedro.org

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Nobody is suggesting that wildlife isn't important! If climate change happens we'll be likely looking at many bird species going extinct (as I noted even a 2'C change is more than enough to wipe out certain species). And what about all the wildlife killed by oil slicks, or tailings pond run off from coal or uranium mines? Unless you're advocating that we abandon all technology and go back to the trees some form of energy production will always be necessary. On balance, properly sited renewables are the least worst option. The devil is in the detail of individual project proposals.

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Hi, Sorry I write you via comments. But I could not find contact e-mail or feedback form on your site. We are looking for new advertisement platforms and we are interested in your site www.green-blog.org. Is it possible to place banner on your site on a fee basis? Please, contact  us at e-mail. Best regards, Julien Fontaine P.S: delete this comment.

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Interesting read! Wind energy is definitely going to play a great role in our nation's future. Here at Parisleaf we're all about producing environmentally friendly web and print media made using 100% wind-power. For every order we receive we plant 10 trees. We're trying to do our part to make the future a little greener. Head on over to www.parisleaf.com and take a look at what we're all about. And keep up the good work on the blog! We'll keep checking back for updates.

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