Wind Energy Is Cutting Down On Birds

By Matthew Klickstein , May 15, 2013 10:51 AM EDT

Wind energy is supposed to be a cleaner and certainly safer means of generating power than certain more conventional means based on fossil fuels or nuclear fission. But there's no explaining to the many eagles, owls, hawks and myriad of other birds whose lives are cut short by wind turbines that green energy is particularly innocuous.

Birds, unfortunately, are not the only winged creatures to lose their lives to wind turbines.

In addition to the more than 573,000 birds that fall victim to wind turbines every year according to a recent article by the Associated Press, bats too fall victim to wind turbines that slice down their species at a rate of 10,000 a year in Pennsylvania alone, the Wall Street Journal says.

Some of the birds who die each year thanks to wind turbines include federally protected species such as golden eagles and bald eagles.

Despite the fact that we humans have become adept at killing off birds of all feathers with many other man-made machinations such as utility towers, glassy office buildings, cars and our domesticated pets –– which all take far more lives of our winged planet cohabitants than wind turbines –– there's no question that wind energy isn't all it's cut out to be.

Though it may seem to the naked, uneducated eye that wind turbines move at a slow or even relaxed pace, the outer tips of the gigantic blades of these suckers actually move at speeds up to 179 mph (288 kilometers per hour). This allows for the blades to easily slice off a wing or two of a passing eagle or hawk.

Part of the problem being that many predatory birds -- such as owls or eagles -- are looking down for prey on the ground when they fly and don't necessarily see a knife-like blade about to cut down them down right in front of their heads.

"There is nothing in the evolution of eagles that would come near to describing a wind turbine," Peregrine Fund Raptor Specialist Grainger Hunt told the Associated Press. "There has never been an opportunity to adapt to that sort of threat."

"Compounding the problem is the design of some wind turbines," LiveScience says. "The lattice work found on older models makes an ideal perch for larger birds of prey, so they're attracted to the same spires that are also a death trap."

"Wind farms" such as Northern California's Altamont Pass can also cause problems for birds, as they are often be situated in the midst of prime migratory routes for our fine feathered friends.

Altamont Pass itself is considered one of the deadliest wind farms in the world, according to LiveScience, which says that nearly 10,000 birds die every year to the wind turbines there. This includes many birds that are, once again, federally protected.

Options for what to do to make wind turbines safer for birds include siting the wind farms in places with a lower bird population. New designs for such turbines are also being developed; those without vertical-axis rotors and lattice frames would be much safer for birds passing by.

The good news is that, according to KCET, such newer turbines and placing the farms in better areas away from so many birds has already sliced the rate of death for certain bird species by half.

What do you think about this complicated issues? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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