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The Big Secret: Wind Power Kills Birds… But Fewer Than Your Pet Cat?

Wind energy has been one of the most promising sources of electrical power for several decades. Thanks to wind turbines in wind farms, a lot of people can now enjoy safe and clean electricity.

Compared to fossil fuels, wind energy does not promote pollution. Its source is inexhaustible, and it reduces greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. With these benefits in place, it can be argued that wind energy is not—in any way—harmful to the environment.

However, taking a closer look, wind farms have caused unnatural deaths of wildlife—specifically of birds. The big question now is how renewable energy wind power kills birds.

windmill with bird

How Wind Power Kills Birds

Wind power kills birds because of two major reasons: the design and location of the wind turbines. Badly designed and poorly situated wind turbines result in about 300,000 bird deaths each year.

Birds collide with wind generators, which causes their untimely deaths. However, this only explains about one-tenth of one percent of all the unnatural deaths of birds in the US every year.

Many of these birds are endangered and threatened species.The most defenseless birds are the following:

  • Bald Eagles
  • Condors
  • Hawks
  • Owls
  • Vultures

John Hageman, a retired biologist, said that bald eaglesare becoming “collateral damage” in the push for renewables.

People are willing to accept the death of eagles for the green energy movement

Hageman expressed

Number of Birds Killed by Wind Turbines

Benjamin Sovacool is the Director of the Danish Center for Energy Technology at the Department of Business Technology and Development. According to his meta-analysis on avian mortality, wind turbines in the US kill between 20,000 and 573,000 birds every year. These numbers are very alarming in light of the fact that birds play an essential role in the earth’s ecosystem.

Despite the threat, wind energy is still one of the most rapidly booming industries in the energy sector (1). Wind energy has gone through an average yearly growth of 124% from its inception in the 1990s until the year 2014. There are more than 49,000 wind turbines across 39 states in the country (2).

Animal rights activists have strongly objected to the establishment of new wind turbines, considering a large number of wind energy-related bird deaths. Through constant protests and lawsuits, they are hoping to save more birds from the massive blades of gigantic wind energy converters.

However, according to some experts, wind turbines kill only a few birds relative to other factors. Here are the top causes of avian deaths, starting from the most common to the least common causes:

  • Feral and domestic cats – 1.4 – 3.7 billion(2)
  • Power lines – 12 – 64 million per year (2)
  • Windows (residential and commercial) – 100 million-1 billion per year (3)
  • Pesticides – 17 – 91million per year (2)
  • Automobiles – 89 – 340 million per year (2)
  • Lighted communication towers – 6.5 million per year (2)

No matter how relatively low the numbers are, it can’t be argued that wind farms should be slack when it comes to protecting the birds. According to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, there are more than 800 species that are protected by law. The treaty doesn’t exempt wind farms, mentioning that even if the birds’ deaths are accidental or unintentional, an illegal act has taken place (4).

The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act advocates for the welfare of eagles, in particular, and suggests specific actions to avoid wind turbine-related deaths. The Act advises wind companies to thoughtfully bear in mind the locations of their wind converters. It also suggests restricting the turbine’s dangerous impact by utilizing certain technologies like radars to detect nearby birds (5).

What Are the Initiatives to Save Birds?

Since solar and wind power kills birds more than expected, the wind energy industry has taken initiatives to minimizethe incidental killings. There are many modern technologies that wind farm workers are implementing to save a large number of birds without totally shutting down their turbines. Some of these include:

  • Cameras, Radar, and GPS – These technologies are used to detect incoming flocks and to switch off the turbines in time to save the birds.
  • Bright-Colored Blades – According to a recent study, white blades attract insects, and insects attract foraging birds. Using bright-colored blades will lessen the number of birds coming in contact with turbines (6).
  • Bright Lights – Researchers found that UV lighting can deter bats and birds from wind farms (7).

Final Thoughts

Wind energy reduces the possibility of continuous climate change. However, they pose a grave threat to the welfare of our endangered birds. We can only hope for wind power businesses to come up with innovative solutions to continue generating power efficiently while promoting the safety of the birds.

On another note, did you know that squirrels have been causing power outages in a lot of parts of USA? Find out how they do it here. Follow our blog to learn tips on energy saving.

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