What Risks Do Wind Turbines Pose For Wildlife?

Wind energy, like all energy sources, has the potential to harm the environment by reducing, fragmenting, or degrading habitat for wildlife, fish, and plants. Additionally, rotating turbine blades might endanger flying fauna such as birds and bats. Because of the potential for wind power to have a negative impact on wildlife, and because these difficulties could delay or prevent wind development in high-quality wind resource areas, impact reduction, siting, and permitting issues are among the wind industry’s top goals.

WETO supports in projects that strive to describe and understand the impact of wind on wildlife on land and offshore to address these concerns and encourage environmentally sustainable growth of wind power in the United States. Furthermore, through centralized information hubs like Tethys, WETO engages in operations to collect and disseminate scientifically rigorous peer-reviewed studies on environmental consequences. The office also invests in scientific research that allows for the development of cost-effective technology to reduce wildlife impacts at both onshore and offshore wind farms.

WETO strives to foster interagency collaboration on wind energy impacts and siting research in order to ensure that taxpayer monies are used wisely to solve environmental challenges associated with wind deployment in the United States.

  • For more than 24 years, the office has supported peer-reviewed research, in part through collaborative relationships with the wind industry and environmental groups including the National Wind Coordinating Collaborative (NWCC) and the Bats and Wind Energy Cooperative.
  • The NWCC was established in 1994 by the DOE’s wind office in collaboration with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to investigate a wide range of issues related to wind energy development, such as transmission, power markets, and wildlife impacts. The NWCC’s focus has evolved over the last decade to addressing and disseminating high-quality information about environmental impacts and remedies.
  • In May 2009, the Department of Energy’s wind office announced approximately $2 million in environmental research awards aimed at decreasing the hazards of wind power development to vital species and habitats. Researchers from Kansas State University and the NWCC’s Grassland Community Collaborative published a paper in 2013 that revealed wind development in Kansas had no significant impact on the population and reproduction of larger prairie chickens.
  • The Bats and Wind Energy Cooperative has been involved in numerous research projects funded by DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory since its inception in 2003, including studies evaluating the impact of changing the cut-in-speed of wind turbines (the minimum wind speed at which wind turbines begin producing power) and the use of ultrasonic acoustic deterrents to reduce bat impacts at wind turbines.
  • Through a competitive funding opportunity, WETO is also financing research and development projects that increase the technical preparedness of bat impact mitigation and minimization solutions. Bat Conservation International, Frontier Wind, General Electric, Texas Christian University, and the University of Massachusetts are among the companies, universities, and organizations receiving funding from the Energy Department to field test and evaluate near-commercial bat impact mitigation technologies, which will provide regulators and wind facility owners-operators with viable and cost-effective tools to reduce bat impacts.
  • Through a competitive funding opportunity, WETO is also financing research and development projects that increase the technical preparedness of bat impact mitigation and minimization solutions. Bat Conservation International, Frontier Wind, General Electric, Texas Christian University, and the University of Massachusetts are among the companies, universities, and organizations receiving funding from the Energy Department to field test and evaluate near-commercial bat impact mitigation technologies, which will provide regulators and wind facility owners-operators with viable and cost-effective tools to reduce bat impacts. The Status and Findings of Developing Technologies for Bat Detection and Deterrence at Wind Facilities webinars hosted by the National Wind Coordinating Collaborative provide project updates and testing findings as of March 2018.
  • WETO chose six teams in 2016 to work on improving solutions that will safeguard eagles that share airspace with wind turbines. For breakthrough, vital eagle-impact minimization technology research and development projects, more nearly $3 million was allocated across the six teams. The research financed by this grant will equip wind farm owners and operators with practical and cost-effective strategies for reducing potential eagle impacts. This important study expands on the Energy Department’s efforts to facilitate wind energy deployment while also ensuring animal coexistence by addressing siting and environmental concerns. If the study is successful, it will safeguard wildlife while also giving new tools for the wind industry to reduce regulatory and financial concerns.
  • WETO is a supporter of research on biological interactions with offshore wind turbines. With this funding, researchers are gathering crucial data on marine life, offshore bird and bat behavior, and other factors that influence the deployment of offshore wind turbines in the United States. The Biodiversity Research Institute and a diverse group of collaborators, for example, completed the largest ecological study ever conducted in the Mid-Atlantic to produce a detailed picture of the environment in Mid-Atlantic Wind Energy Areas, which will aid permitting and environmental compliance for offshore wind projects.

WETO also collaborates with other federal agencies to create recommendations to help developers comply with statutory, regulatory, and administrative requirements for wildlife protection, national security, and public safety. The Wind Energy Technologies Office, for example, collaborated with the Department of the Interior on the Land-Based Wind Energy Guidelines and Eagle Conservation Plan Guidance.

What impact do wind turbines have on wildlife?

The potential for wind turbines to harm wild animals both directly, through collisions, and indirectly, through noise pollution, habitat loss, and reduced survival or reproduction, is a major concern for the business. Birds and bats, which contribute billions of dollars in economic benefits to the country’s agriculture sector each year by eating damaging insects, are among the most damaged animals.

Is wildlife safe from wind turbines?

“These windmills will be among the world’s highest, posing a threat to birds and bats,” says Fred Cheverie, watershed coordinator for the PEI Wildlife Federation’s Souris and Area Branch. “It will be situated among a number of wetlands that serve as nesting grounds for a variety of birds and other wildlife.”

According to Cheverie, the area is home to 52 fragile species of birds, as well as four endangered species. White nose sickness has destroyed bat populations on the island, making them susceptible. “However, there is some recovery in this area,” he adds, raising the risk of bat-turbine collisions.

Cheverie is afraid that the roads connecting to the turbines may split the wetlands, which are also crucial for carbon sequestration. According to him, the wind farm’s chosen location in Souris is “in the middle of one of the last remaining natural areas on Prince Edward Island.”

The property is next to the Red Triangle, which has been recognized by the Canadian Wildlife Service as a migratory bird refuge and protection area. PEI Energy Corporation redesigned its wind farm to avoid the triangle, and the company claims it is taking steps to lessen its environmental impact, but Cheverie is concerned about the additional turbines.

According to a 2013 study, the proliferation of wind turbines in Canada over the next 10-15 years could result in the extinction of 233,000 birds and the displacement of 57,000 pairs each year. According to another study, wind turbines kill between 140,000 and 328,000 birds in the United States each year. It’s worth mentioning that data from 2014 revealed that 12 to 64 million birds died in the United States due to collisions with power lines, but power lines are more common than wind turbines, so it’s a difficult comparison.

Wind turbines have an impact on animals.

Wind energy, like all forms of energy, has the potential to harm wildlife, including the injury and death of birds and bats as a result of turbine collisions, as well as the loss and fragmentation of species’ habitat.

What animals do wind turbines kill?

A hodgepodge of federal, state, and municipal restrictions may control how companies must monitor wildlife mortality on wind farms, although reporting requirements vary greatly. As a result, accurate statistics on deaths is difficult to come by. According to estimates, turbines kill 600,000 to 949,000 bats and 140,000 to 679,000 birds per year in North America. Dogs are by far the most efficient and successful technique to locate them.

Misfits from the pet world make the greatest dogs for this job. They must be completely fascinated with playto the point of exhaustion for most humans. “All of the dogs in our program are either rescues… or owner surrenders, where they just say they’ve run out of alternatives and even a shelter won’t take them,” says Heath Smith, director of Rogue Detection Teams, a conservation detection dog organization. The dogs are hyperactive and have an excessive amount of energy “insatiable desire to play fetch,” which isn’t ideal for a family pet but is ideal for encouraging a dog to hunt for birds or bats in order to receive their favorite toy as a reward. (Barley, according to Fratt, was “When he was younger, he was called “a pain in the buttocks.” Work allows him to release all of his pent-up energy.) Some dogs like a ball, while others prefer a rope or squishy toy; one of Smith’s dogs has taken to scooting around an empty food dish.

Even Nevertheless, searching beneath wind turbines may be strenuous physical labor. Sarah Jackson, who works with Rogue Detection Teams on a wind farm in Palm Springs, California, says a normal day entails 10 miles of walking. It’s grown so hot that she’s now searching in the middle of the night. Lady, Ptero, and Indy, Jackson’s three working dogs, scan two wind turbines each night, walking back and forth over an area the size of several football fields. (Every hour, the dogs get to turn off.) She isn’t one of them.) Others informed me about their experiences working in the rain and dirt. Despite this, Jackson sounded amazingly positive when I spoke with her at 6 a.m. after a long night of searching. Her hours are unusual, and the work is demanding, but she gets to work with dogs who are ecstatic to be there. “Imagine you’re in your car with three coworkers, and everyone is throwing a party,” she explained. That’s how I feel every day as I drive to work.

Dogs make searching more enjoyable for humans as well. Wynter Skye Standish, who is presently working on another wind farm in California, worked as a human searcher monitoring wildlife on wind farms before starting to work with dogs. That task is tedious, and it’s easy to lose track of time. She’s now always aware of her dog’s movementsthe wag of her tail, the angle of her snout. The canines’ extraordinary sense of smell, their strong awareness of human social cues, and our own keen knowledge of theirs are all combined in this collaboration. Standish does not consider herself a handler with an obedient dog; they work as a team as equals.

People who work with dogs on wind farms are usually animal lovers, so finding a dead bird or bat is a bittersweet experience. The dogs are ecstatic, awaiting a reward for their hard work. Humans may feel relieved for the birds and bats on days when there are no dead animals, but the dogs can become very frustrated, according to Amanda Janicki, who has worked on Iowa wind farms with her dog, Caffrey. Janicki is awestruck by his ability to find even the tiniest, most buried bat bones. But she laments what they imply: another bat has been murdered by the turbines.

Wind turbines: Are they Harmful to Birds?

Wind power is a critical source of renewable, carbon-free energy for replacing and reducing emissions from fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas, which contribute to global warming.

While wind energy benefits birds on a global scale by reducing climate change, direct collisions with turbines and other structures, such as power lines, can damage birds. Wind farms can also degrade or destroy habitat, cause disruption and relocation, and disrupt crucial biological connections. Putting wind turbines in the way of migratory routes exacerbates the problem, particularly for larger turbine blades that may reach up into the typical flight zone of night-migrating birds. Turbine collisions kill an estimated 140,000 to 500,000 birds per year, which is a large number but far less than mortality caused by outdoor cats or building collisions.

  • Wind energy planning at the federal, state, and local levels in “low impact” locations where permission is more efficient.
  • Federal and state regulations ensure proper siting and operation of wind farms and equipment.
  • New technologies are being developed to assist reduce the amount of harm done to birds and other wildlife.
  • Existing wildlife protection laws, such as the Endangered Species Act, the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, must be strictly enforced.

Quiz: What kind of hazard does wind energy pose to different types of wildlife?

What level of danger does wind energy pose to different types of wildlife? Birds and bats, for example, are killed when they fly into the blades of wind turbines.

How many birds perish as a result of windmills?

According to estimates, turbines kill up to a million or more birds per year in the United States, but collisions with communications towers (6.5 million); power lines (25 million); windows (up to 1 billion); and cats (1.3 to 4.0 billion), as well as those lost due to habitat loss, pollution, and climate change, kill far more (American Bird Conservancy, Nature). Even if there were twenty times as many wind turbines as there are now, enough to power the entire United States, the number of birds killed would be around 10 million, significantly less than most other causes of bird death.

While turbines are not a huge source of bird mortality, they are a significant factor that will continue to grow as more wind turbines are installed, therefore the American Bird Conservancy and wind energy experts are striving to lower the rate (e.g. see No-blade wind turbines).

Visit the American Bird Conservancy’s website for information on preventing bird mortality.

When something better comes along, wind turbines can be removed. Habitat devastation and pollution caused by coal, oil, and gas extraction and burning, pipeline construction, and other infrastructure, as well as negligence and accidents, are extremely difficult, if not impossible, to reverse.

Wind and solar power are far superior to coal, oil, and nuclear energy for the sake of birds, the environment, and the beauty of nature.

How many birds have been killed as a result of wind turbines?

However, the Trump administration stated in 2017 that the statute only applies to those who “intentionally” kill birds, not to oil corporations engaged in “lawful commercial activity.”

In the United States, the predicament of birds is extremely real: According to a 2019 study, North America has lost roughly 3 billion birds since 1970, or a quarter of the overall bird population.

So, if you’re sincerely concerned about birds, the best first step is to address their two most serious threats: Keep your cat inside and use decals to cover your windows so they don’t look transparent.

What are the three drawbacks of wind energy?

  • Wind turbines convert wind energy into useful power by spinning a generator, which is spun by the wind movement.
  • Wind energy has several advantages: it does not emit greenhouse gases, it is renewable, it is space-efficient, it produces inexpensive energy, and it encourages employment growth.
  • Wind energy has a number of drawbacks, including its unpredictability, the damage it poses to animals, the low-level noise it produces, the fact that it is not visually beautiful, and the fact that there are only a few areas ideal for wind turbines.
  • The wind business has developed significantly over the last few decades, and it appears that this trend will continue.