WIND ENERGY Q&A

 

WIND ENERGY Q&A

 
 
 

ABOUT THE DEVELOPER

PROJECT BENEFITS

ENVIRONMENTAL COMPATIBILITY

.....................................

AVIAN AND BAT MORTALITY

ENVIRONMENTAL AND WILDLIFE IMPACT

LIGHTNING

LOSS OF FARMLAND

PROPERTY VALUES

SHADOW FLICKER

SIGNAL INTERFERENCE

SOUND

STRAY VOLTAGE



 

As an emerging industry, questions and concerns often arise surrounding proposed and operating wind energy projects.

This information is designed to give answers to common concerns and frequently asked questions. Facts and figures from

independent sources were used to support the information.

 

AVIAN AND BAT MORTALITY

Proper studies and precautions minimize the impact wind energy projects have on birds and other wildlife.


It is estimated that for every 10,000 birds killed by all human activity, less than one death is caused by wind turbines. In fact, a study by

the National Research Council (NRC 2007) concluded that current wind energy generation is responsible for 0.003% of human-caused

avian mortality. The numbers are expected to stay relatively low as wind energy starts playing a more significant role in total energy

production. However, it is important that proper precautions continue to be taken in siting and design and that sitespecific environmental

examinations be conducted to assess future impacts. In the 1980’s, an extensive number of unforeseen raptor deaths occurred in

Altamont Pass, California, due to poor siting, lack of pre-construction studies and the use of wind turbine technology that did not

incorporate the modern designs of today.



The Union of Concerned Scientists reported in 2004 that bird fatalities most often occur at older turbines that have fast-moving blades

and lattice tower structures that proved to be an attractive nesting and perching spot for birds. The study states, “Fortunately, significant

progress has been made in reducing bird fatalities. Newer turbines typically feature slower-moving blades and tubular steel towers that

reduce opportunities for perching and nesting. These turbines are also much larger than earlier models, allowing wind developers to

use fewer, more dispersed turbines at a given site. Developers are also more conscious now of how their choice of site for a new wind

farm can minimize its impact on local and migratory bird populations. Even if wind power supplied all of the United States’ energy needs,

wind turbines would constitute only a small fraction of the estimated 200 million to 500 million annual bird fatalities attributable to human

activity (e.g., vehicles, buildings and windows, power lines, communication towers, airplanes, house cats).” The National Audubon

Society has also issued a statement supporting properly sited wind power as a clean energy source that reduces the threat of global

warming.



In the recent past, much focus has been geared toward bat mortality at wind energy project sites. Prior to 2003, bat fatalities at wind

projects were thought to generally be low. However, in 2003 post-construction avian studies at a wind project in West Virginia discovered

bat fatalities in numbers much larger than previously known. Since then, bat fatalities have been documented at higher than expected

rates at many other locations across the US. In response to the issue, AWEA, Bat Conservation International, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife

Services and the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory founded a new organization, the Bats & Wind

Energy Cooperative (BWEC), in late 2003. In addition to the founding organizations, BWEC is also funded by a diversity of partners

who are focused on finding good site screening tools and testing minimization and mitigation measures that can reduce a wind project’s

impact to bats.



Despite the minimal impact wind development has on bird and bat populations in most areas, the industry takes the potential impact

seriously. Special initiatives and preconstruction environmental surveys, including avian and bat studies, are now common practice

throughout the industry.

 

NOTES:

i. The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) is the leading science-based nonprofit working for a healthy environment and a safer world.

UCS combines independent scientific research and citizen action to develop innovative, practical solutions and to secure responsible

changes in government policy, corporate practices and consumer choices.

ii. The National Audubon Society is an environmental nonprofit. Audubon’s mission is to conserve and restore natural ecosystems,

focusing on birds and other wildlife and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the earth’s biological diversity.