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Wind Generators and Birds: Power Politics?
©1995 Mick Sagrillo Lately, a number of articles have
been published in various
periodicals bringing attention to a problem that is occurring on wind farms. It seems that dead birds have been found at a few locations. Some writers have even gone so far as to dub the wind generators “raptor-matics” and cuisinarts of the sky!”
Many Home Power readers considering a wind generator have asked about the seriousness of this problem. They are concerned that if they install a wind generator they will be responsible for batting birds all over the neighborhood. It’s time to address this potentially serious issue.
All of the studies done to date on bird mortalities associated with wind power have been done on wind farm-sized equipment. We’ll take a look at this problem, what conclusions have been drawn, and speculate on why. From there, we’ll apply this information to home sized systems.
The problem of bird deaths associated with wind farms stems from reports filed with the California Energy Commission (CEC) in the early 1980’s. At the time, the California wind farms were growing in number and size. Because some of the casualties were protected species, the CEC felt that the matter should be investigated further.
What the CEC discovered was that the reports were true. Dead birds were indeed found on the ground at the wind farms. Many of the birds were at one location, the Altamont Pass east of San Francisco. To make matters worse, they were raptors: red tailed hawks, kestrels, & golden eagles. More studies were ordered.
I need to digress and say that I had little idea of the extent of the bird/wind turbine problem before delving into it. I had read many of the same news reports that some concerned readers had, but not much more. After quite a bit of research, I unearthed more about dead birds than I ever thought existed. I found that some exhaustive studies have been funded to the tune of millions of dollars to determine both the extent of the problem and what can be done to soften the environmental impact of wind power. One company, Kenetech, has spent more than $2 million on one study for one location. This is obviously serious business, as big money is on the table!
30 Home Power #46 • April / May 1995
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