We’re hearing lots of commentary about switching the country over from fossil fuel energy to other sources. One of the most frequently mentioned is wind generation.
Well, that may not be quite as viable an option as some would like us to believe.
Aside from many interesting technical issues involved with creating and maintaining a much larger and more spread out power transmission and distribution infrastructure that currently does not exist, a surprising caution about the proposal just surfaced in, of all places, the latest newsletter from The Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
Wind generators can pose a significant wildlife threat.
Don’t forget: environmentalists have been extraordinarily successful at blocking all sorts of past energy efforts like expanded oil well development. If they link wind generation to excessive killing of birds, especially endangered ones, the great alternate energy hope might get stopped dead in its tracks.
The Autumn 2009 issue of Cornell’s Birdscope won’t be available on line until the next quarter, but in a nutshell, the majority of the front page of this newspaper-sized publication is devoted to the potentially serious impact that expanded wind generation could have on birds.
One issue is that major migratory routes overlap many areas where wind generation seems most attractive.
There are other problems. Birdscope cites a 2006 study by the National Academy of Sciences that found,
• Scientific data to safely locate wind generation farms is lacking
• There isn’t enough scientific data on the risks wind generators pose to birds and other flying creatures
• Data collection in the area isn’t standardized, which makes the information that is available difficult to use for informed policy decisions
• Technology to mitigate risks are poorly developed
Other studies cited in Birdscope indicate that non-migratory birds have been adversely impacted by wind generation farms, as well. Raptors were killed in disturbing numbers in the wind generation site at Altamont Pass of California. And, some prairie species which have never encountered tall objects like the generators apparently don’t fair well when such tall, moving structures are introduced to the environment.