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Impact of Wind Farms on Wild Life & Avian Mortality

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Environmental Studies
Wordcount: 1319 words Published: 4th Sep 2017

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Humanity depending on oil, coal and gas to produce energy is destroying many ecosystems around the world. They are reaching crisis levels, finding alternative energy source is critical. Wind power, can be viable energy source that costs very less than other power producers. Wind power releases no pollutants or harmful substances like the other generators. But there are some issues even with wind-energy such as bird mortality.

Birds are getting killed through collisions with turbines and other supporting structures of wind-energy. Construction associated with wind turbines clear vegetation around the area, disturbing natural nesting area of birds and other wildlife. Many surveys have been conducted at various locations around the globe from 1990 regarding bird.

In the recent surveys, it is revealed that huge number of bat fatalities at wind energy facilities at different sites of wind farms all across the globe. The surveys are done based on the carcass found near the wind turbine, but it is speculated that this method doesn’t show the actual number of animal killed.

According to the Globe and Mail article “Wind farm turbines deadly for birds, bats” a study conducted between July and December of 2009 at Wolfe Island with 86 huge turbines showed, 602 birds and 1,270 bats were killed by the turbines over that stretch. These numbers are in consistent with other wind farms in North America. Similar condition is estimated by “The Spanish Ornithological Society” in Madrid that Spain’s 18,000 wind turbines may be killing 6 million to 18 million birds and bats annually according to article “The trouble with turbines: An ill wind” byMeera Subramanian.

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At another big farm, The Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area, California housing 5,400 wind turbine they conducted a study where they searched for bird carcasses within 50 m of 4,074 wind turbines for periods ranging from 6 months to 4.5 years. Using mortality estimates adjusted for searcher detection and scavenger removal rates, They estimated the annual wind turbine-caused bird fatalities to number 67 golden eagles, 188red-tailed hawks, 348 American kestrels , 440 burrowing owls , 1,127 raptors, and 2,710 birds according acrticle “Bird Mortality in the Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area, California” by Smallwood, K Shawn.

Many believe that the survey numbers are underestimated. To solve these issues many steps have been taken such as estimating various aspects of the survey. Aspects include estimated area to find carcass, probability of finding carcass, persistence rate and the number of carcasses found divided by estimated detection probability to obtain precise bird fatalities according to article ” Ecological impacts of wind farms on birds:Questions,hypotheses,and research needs by Shifeng Wang, SicongWang , Pete Smith “(600). The article also states that new technologies have also been implemented to further the research such as remote sensing technologies into the monitoring experiments. Radar which uses microwaves to detect objects in the sky and build images based on it which is being used to determine and evaluate birds flight pattern. Other technologies include thermal infrared imaging cameras used to observe bird movement around wind turbines. These technologies certainly help in understanding and making wind farms truly eco-friendly

Wind farms can also impact the habitats around them. The scale of direct habitat loss depends on the scale of wind farms and infrastructure. It is estimated around 2-5% of the total development area. According to article ” Information needs to support environmental impact assessment of the effects of European marine offshore wind farms on birds, by A.D.Fox “

Few measures have been developed and identified to decrease avian mortality by studying their biology,flight patterns and environmental surroundings. Mitigation measures can be divideded into two categories 1) Best practice measures 2) Additional measures.

Best practice measures are those which should be a standard in all wind farms and additional measures are based on the aspects of wind farms such as their location, size and infrastructure.

  • Halting wind turbine if any bird group is passing through. This can reduce bird mortality rate by 50%.
  • The Mitigation methods should be species specific.
  • Collision reduction can be reduced through audible deterrence.
  • Using negative reinforcement technique by playing sounds of predator birds near the turbines will decrease the chances of bird entering the radius of wind turbine.
  • Avoiding breeding areas or critical habitats in and near the wind farm construction.
  • Identifying the conservation areas and avoiding them. With this measure any key ecological area can be preserved such as bird habitat, endangered bird species, bird migration areas etc.
  • Implementation of proper safety practices to protect key and sensitive areas.
  • Providing proper training and information to the site workers and employing a ecologist during wind farm establishment
  • Establishing proper monitoring sensors in and around the wind farms to avoid future potential bird fatalities.
  • Establishing turbines in close vicinity. Engineering a solution to fit even big turbines.
  • Grouping turbines together with proper estimated gaps based on the flight patterns of birds and providing minimum corridor for bird flight.
  • Painting the turbine blades to make them more visible during all weather conditions can reduce the collision rate of birds.
  • Installing most of the cables underground would minimize exterior infrastructure but can disturb natural habitat around.
  • Establishing wind farms in proper time avoiding sensitive periods such as migrating season of birds.
  • Maintenance crews have to follow proper timing periods that doesn’t disturb the habitat around as the crews need to use boats or helicopters for offshore installations.

These are some of the measures suggested in the article ” Assessing the impacts of wind farms on birds ” by Allan L. Drewitt.

There are two sides to every coin. Every man made change in the nature has both positive and negative impacts. I believed that wind farms are clean pure energy which humanity should move towards but even wind farms are having impact on wildlife habitats around. Considering the damage done by other power generators this can be minimal but thriving to make wind energy more eco-friendly is necessary. Every bird fatalities has a impact on the food chain established by the nature disturbing the food chain can have unforeseen consequences around the globe. Following the standard and necessary measures to prevent avian mortality in necessary.

Works Cited

Richard , Blackwell . “Windfarm turbines deadly for birds, bats.” Windfarm turbines deadly for birds, bats (Published Wednesday, Jun. 09 2010, 9:34 PM EDT ): n. pag. Web.

Shifeng Wang. “Ecological impacts of wind farms on birds :Questions,hypotheses,and research needs.” Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews (2015): 600-06. Web.

Meera Subramanian. “Bird and Bat deaths from wind turbines.” The trouble with turbines: An ill wind (20 June 2012): n. pag. Web.

Smallwood, K Shawn. “Bird Mortality in the Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area, California.” Journal of Wildlife Management (January 2008): 215-23. Web.

ALLAN L. DREWITT. “Assessing the impacts of wind farms on birds.” International Journal of Avian Science (27 March 2006): n. pag. Web.


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