Wind turbines are an excellent source of renewable energy, which does not cause pollution. However as the number of wind turbines goes up, unfortunately the number of wildlife deaths are also increasing. This article will look at some of the issues and solutions surrounding this matter.
Wind energy turbines as the name suggests, rely on wind, which is generated by flow of gases resulted from heat change. Wind turbine can produce energy in abundance as the source of the wind energy is sun. Studies suggest that a large wind turbine can generate enough energy to power 600 US homes. In addition, wind power has the potential to provide 20 times more energy than what the entire human population needs. As new technology advances the cost of wind turbines is decreasing, and are expected to keep decreasing. Furthermore the maintenance costs associated with wind power are low.All make it one of the best forms of renewable energy.
Despite the outstanding potential of wind turbines, there are still some considerable drawbacks. Those who live within a close proximity of wind turbines will be affected by the noise; and of course some will argue about the aesthetic. Furthermore recent studies have argued that the near- and medium-term future growth in wind turbine production, will lead to vast shortages of neodymium magnets. “Rare earth magnets are playing a crucial role in core parts of high performance wind turbines and all high performance engines.” said Rita Wang, technical manager of Stanford Magnets.
These are all legitimate concerns. However this article will address the particular effect that wind turbines have on wildlife, as “Eagles and wind farms both go where the best wind is.” A recent article reported that towers and spinning blades kill thousands of birds and bats on the Altamont Pass east of Livermore each year.Independent researcher Shawn Smallwood, head of ongoing mortality surveys in the Sand Hill area and other parts of the Altamont, estimates 10,000 birds are killed each year. Smallwood argues that “the old turbine technology is terrible.” The article goes on to highlight that new measures can be taken to reduce the number of risks. One promising innovation by Ogin Inc.is to install "shrouded" turbines, as can be seen in the image below. The shroud, which are two concentric covers around the blades are promising to not only make turbines more efficient, but also less accessible to approaching birds and bats. At less than 200 feet, they're shorter and smaller than most "next-gen" turbines, which can reach almost 500 feet.
As well as these shrouded turbines, other measures can also be taken to reduce the risk to wildlife. Although these measures refer more to off shore wind turbines, they still offer a viable start. A recent article argues that we need to firstly minimize wind siting in biologically sensitive areas, such as shoals, boulder reefs, rocky cobble areas, and the mouths of inlets. In addition areas critical to migration, breeding, wintering, or other sensitive life stages needed to sustain healthy populations of wildlife. Secondly they suggested that projects should be moved further offshore, thus helping avoid environmental and other potential conflicts, such as military needs and navigation. In general, avian species abundance and diversity declines further from the shoreline. Lastly they suggest that we need to establish comprehensive monitoring programs that support continuous improvement in project development.
Another paper outlines a common-sense approach to energy independence by recommending siting wind energy in areas across the United States already impacted by human activities — like agriculture or oil and gas development. It is argued that in these areas, wind development would likely have few additional impacts on natural areas and wildlife.
Irrefutably there is no form of energy that doesn’t have an impact on the environment, it just depends on the impact. But the most important thing is that we are working toward a future of 100 percent clean energy; that future also has plenty of room for birds to soar.