We recently published a list of 10 wind energy myths & their accompanying facts (Debunking 10 Wind Energy Myths). After writing short blurbs about each of the ten myths, we decided that we should do a series of more in-depth looks at each of these 10 myths and the truths that are being overshadowed by them. In the first of the series, we’ll look at wind energy’s impacts on wildlife.

A lot of people worry about wind turbines killing birds or negatively impacting other animals. This concern is unwarranted given today’s wind turbine technology.

It is estimated that for every 10,000 birds killed by human-related activities, less than one death is caused by wind turbines. In fact, in 2006 the National Academy of Sciences projected that wind energy is accountable for less than .003% of bird deaths caused by human and feline activities. Buildings, meanwhile, account for 100 million to 1 billion bird deaths per year in the United States and vehicles cause up to 80 million bird deaths per year. Communications towers, pesticides, and hunters also each kill millions of birds each year in the US. Even if enough turbines were installed to power the entire US solely by wind, only .4% of bird deaths would be caused by wind turbines.

As the turbines get bigger, the number of bird deaths actually further decreses. Larger turbines, like the 1.5 and 2 MW turbines of today, have HUGE blades with a lot of surface area. These 200-foot blades turn slowly because of how big they are. Birds see the swinging blades and avoid them easily.

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) has also partnered with Bat Conservation International, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service to research interactions between wind power developments and bats. As the research has progressed, teams of experts have been using the data to come up with ways to reduce wind energy’s impacts on bats. Large impacts on bats have been limited to two sites in the Eastern United States, but the impacts have been taken seriously by the industry assocation.

It is clear that the wind energy industry takes potential wildlife impacts quite seriously and works very hard to reduce the impact of wind turbines on birds and bats. Extensive site analysis is done before siting wind turbines to avoid impacting wildlife, especially endangered species and large birds of prey. Monitoring of bird interactions has continued after construction at several sites around the US and has validated the efficacy of pre-construction site analyses. As the wind industry grows, so will the methods & standards for site analyses which effectively mitigate impacts on wildlife.