Wind farms are good stewards to the environment and procedures are in place to protect wildlife populations.  In fact, wind farms can save as much as 600 gallons of water per megawatt of energy generated when compared to fossil fuel generation. Turbines also take up only a 1/2 -1 acre of land permanently and they emit no harmful C02 emissions.

On the contrary,  fossil-fuel generation disturbs the environment greatly. It wastes water, emits harmful CO2 gasses, and destroys the land through continuous mining.

In fact, 39% of today’s 6 billion metric tons of CO2 emissions originate from electricity generation.  Electricity generation accounts for 48% of our nation’s water withdrawals, amounting to nearly 738 billion liters per day. Coal mining is expected to destroy nearly 988,000 acres of land annually.   Also, coal mining, oil spills, acid rain, and oil platforms built along the Gulf Coast are all known causes of wildlife mortality in the U.S. A 2004 study in Nature forecast that a mid-range estimate of climate warming could cause 19% to 45% of global species to become extinct.

( Facts from the Department  of Energy’s 20% Wind Energy by 2030 Report)

Although concerns have been raised about the potential risk wind turbines have on wildlife, most notably bird and bat populations, the facts reveal that wind turbines today have little impact on wildlife if developers follow stringent siting standards.  The chart below shows that bird fatalities range from 100 million to 1 billion annually and it is estimated that for every 10,000 bird deaths, less than one death is caused by a wind turbine.

Out of 10,000 bird deaths, less than one is caused by a wind turbine.

The wind industry has taken this issue very seriously and mitigated problems related to the country’s earliest turbine installations. Improvements in technology and industry siting standards have drastically reduced impacts on bird and bat populations.

Standard industry siting standards have evolved over the last decade to steer clear of local migratory bird populations and topography, such as ridges, where birds frequent. The Bats and Wind Energy Cooperative, a coalition formed by the Bat Conservation International (BCI), the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory of the US Department of Energy (NREL), conducts research that has helped change siting standards to avoid migratory paths.

Technological improvements have also helped protect bird populations. In fact, a new radar system, called the MERLIN SCADA system, uses advanced radar technology to detect bird migratory flight paths. This technology provides real-time bird mortality risk mitigation and is the first of its kind in the world. Most often, a bird’s flight path is well above the hub height of a turbine, meaning it will not be harmed. However, sometimes flight paths are lowered due to storms and high winds.  The MERLIN SCADA system can detect avian flight patterns in these instances and automatically activate mitigation reactions, including idling the turbines when appropriate. Scientists at Pattern Energy Group developed the MERLIN SCADA radar system and its first implementation occurred on a 283 megawatt wind farm along the Texas Gulf Coast.

The MERLIN SCADA system uses advanced radar technology to protect migratory birds.

Enhancements in turbine technology design have also helped significantly reduce the potential impact turbines may have on wildlife. Turbine towers are no longer designed as lattice structures that encourage bird nesting. Today’s turbine towers are sleek, steel mono-tubes and turbine blades are larger and spin slower.

Overall, the industry is very proactive in developing preventative measures to protect wildlife populations. Wind energy was established on ecological principles and values and its goal is to uphold these ideals in all aspects of its development.

Technological improvements, research, and stringent siting methodology speak to the industry’s commitment to environmental protection and safety.