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Thursday, March 29, 2018

Wind Turbines and Wildlife


Wind turbines along a hillside with lots of green brush and trees

Did you know that wind turbines produce cleaner energy than fossil fuels do, and they’re also safer for nearby wildlife? 

With electricity generation, research shows that wind turbines are less of a threat to wildlife than burning fossil fuels, feral and outdoor cats, birds hitting objects, and climate change. 

An advocate of renewable energy, the Audubon Society “supports properly sited wind power as a renewable energy source that helps reduce the threats posed to birds and people by climate change.” Here at CleanChoice, we’re committed to responsible wind turbine siting and purchasing energy from responsibly sited farms. 

Fossil Fuels, Cats, Bird Strikes, and Climate Change 

So, what does the research show? Recent studies all conclude that wind kills fewer birds than people think. Overall, a new study reports that, as technology has improved, wind turbines result in 140,000 to 328,000 bird fatalities annually—which is far fewer than other threats. That said, there are efforts taking place to ensure the safety of animals, like large birds categorized as raptors. 

How do wind turbines compare with other factors in relation to birds? 

Fossil fuels are responsible for killing more birds than wind turbines, resulting in 500,000 to 1 million bird deaths every year; with oil spills killing millions more. A U.S. study found that "Wind farms and nuclear power stations are each responsible for between 0.3 and 0.4 fatalities per gigawatt-hour (GWh) of electricity. Fossil-fueled power stations are responsible for about 5.2 fatalities per GWh.

Cats are responsible for between 1.4 and 3.7 billion bird deaths annually. A 2013 study found that feral cats cause the deaths of birds more often that wind turbines.

Ordinary windows are the biggest culprit in bird deaths from “bird strikes,” killing between 365 million and 988 million birds every year. Power lines and communication towers also pose real threats. 

Climate change poses, by far, the bigger risk to birds than wind farms ever could. If climate change is not addressed, one in six bird species—as well as every other living species—is at risk of extinction. And that could be a low estimate. For birds, especially that number could be one of every two species. 

What does the Audubon Society say about solutions to climate change? “Audubon and other leaders in the science and conservation space agree that to help prevent species extinctions and other catastrophic effects of climate change, we must significantly reduce pollution from fossil fuels as quickly as possible. Properly sited wind power is an important part of the strategy to combat climate change.”  

Improving Sustainability and Protecting Wildlife 

Wind companies and wind research organizations use innovative technology and responsible site planning for turbines. These efforts are making wind energy the cleaner and safer choice over fossil fuels.  

For example, scientists are working with the Fish and Wildlife Service directly to better understand how birds use the landscape, and the sky above it. Improved knowledge about how and where birds and other flying animals like bats fly is improving how wind technicians site wind turbines. 

Recently, wind farms have begun “feathering,” which means idling their turbines at low wind speeds during peak bat migration times. Scientists at the United States Geological Survey and the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory are working on further ways to discourage bats from flying towards turbines. They also collaborated with two commercial wind companies recently to improve bird detection systems. 

In a different effort, a behavioral biologist has partnered with engineers to create a device that deters birds from flying into wind turbines (plus communications towers or power lines) by using targeted bursts of sound to warn birds away. And, the Audubon Society provides mapping technology to the wind industry that helps visualize potential impacts. 

Other evolving solutions include developing wind farms outside of migration routes, camouflaging wind turbines to look like trees, smart blades that sense a birds’ approach, and GPS systems that track flocks of birds or even individual birds, and then warn wind farm managers of their approach. 

At the end of the day, renewable energy and environmental sustainability are natural born partners. Why? Because being environmentally responsible is part of being a renewable energy solution. 

Here at CleanChoice Energy, our vision is to avoid the catastrophic effects of climate change. Our mission is to make clean energy accessible to everyone.  Learn how you can switch your home or business to 100% pollution-free renewable energy sourced from wind and solar today! 


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