Bird-proof wind turbines under development

March 23, 2009  

The debate on how best to maximize green energy and protect wildlife continues to be the source of turbulent debate, at least when it comes to wind power and the deadly interactions with birds and bats.

Relatively speaking, wind turbines are a negligible threat to birds and bats, compared to say, cats. But bird groups advocate for better-sited wind farms in order to lessen the impact on wildlife, prompting scientists to seek ways to essentially bird-proof turbines.

Location, location, location…

The problem with wind farms is that the locations are chosen for the same reason that birds and bats choose their migratory flight paths: the wind. Birds follow the winds because it creates less turbulence than hilly, or tree- and city- covered land, which results in an easier, faster and smoother flight…which puts them right in the path of the wind farms.

Wind turbines have come a long way in the last 25 years. The former ‘lattice’ design of towers used back then provided perches which actually attracted birds to the blades. The wind turbine blade configuration and size, and reduced speed of new designs have had the effect of lowering mortality rates. Though not as effective as the horizontal design, the vertical spires may be a good compromise.

Today scientists, wind companies, and environmentalists are working together to bird-proof the turbines. There are already bird-safe home wind turbines. And for the past several years, wildlife biologists have been observing and measuring the interactions of migratory birds and lake-anchored wind turbines.