Wildlife and Fisheries Science Major, graduating May 2016
Wind energy - it is renewable, environmentally friendly, and somewhat efficient...but with all good things there comes a cost. A hidden cost of wind energy and turbines is that it has an effect on song birds, birds of prey, and bats. Yeah, there will be some wildlife death when you change an environment and add something unnatural, but we can limit its effects on the wildlife.
The following statistics in bold are taken from a presentation Mr. Mike Barton gave us in class.
- “The PA Game Commission did a study and found that one turbine kills about four song birds a year.” Now to some people four doesn’t seem like a big number, but think about how much turbines you see on one mountain and each one of them kill’s four birds a year! “Most of these deaths occur in the fall and spring time, when birds are migrating.”
- The birds of prey such as red-tailed hawks, coopers hawks, and turkey vultures are also affected by the turbines, which makes sense since they use high wind currents to glide and look for food. “According to the PGC about 86 birds of prey are killed a year.” Check out this video. Warning: this may be too violent for some viewers.
- The most interesting part to me is the death toll that wind turbines have on the bats! Now bats are out mostly in the night time, but the turbines are running at night too. Since these turbines have lights on them, those lights attract bugs. Due to the turbine lights attracting bugs, bats fly around trying to get a meal, an effort that sometimes results in death or injury. The PGC states that “twenty five bats are killed by one turbine in a year.”
Now there are policies and laws in place that regulate the amount of time a turbine can be running. The turbines also get turned off at certain times of the day to try to prevent wildlife death from occurring, but it isn’t a perfect solution. I honestly don’t know if there is a perfect solution to prevent wildlife death by turbines, but I believe it is possible to improve the chances for the wildlife. I believe that we can make policies that can add more regulations to the activity period of the turbines. We already have laws in place that during migration times that the turbines are shut down.
I believe that we could have more regulations in place, such as:
- Let the turbines run in the middle of the day, compared to morning and evenings when birds are more active.
- Another thing we can do to help prevent death in bats specifically is not have lights on the turbines, like I said before the lights are attracting bugs and the bats eat bugs. So wouldn’t it make sense to not have lights on the turbines, or if they need lights use a light color that doesn’t attract bugs?
- Also why not turn off the turbines after a certain time of the night like around midnight and then start them back up around eight or nine o’clock in the morning to help reduce the bat mortality. This is how I believe that we can help out the wildlife and hopefully prevent less death from turbines.
Check out this video on wind turbines and birds: