>More about wind turbines

>Some coincidences are downright eerie. Hours after I posted, I was in my dressing room reading Alan Weisman’s “The World Without Us” before curtain time, and came to the chapter on birds and towers.

In the U.S., all towers higher that 199 feet require warning lights for aircraft. By Weisman’s estimate there are well over 250,000 such towers in the country today, including all the new cell phone towers. Weisman: Especially prominent were birds that migrated, and especially those that travel by night…migrants carry built-in compasses — particles of magnetite in their heads, with which they orient to the Earth’s magnetic field. The mechanism to switch them on involves their optics. The short end of the spectrum — purples, blues, and greens — apparently triggers their navigational clues. If only the longer red waves are present, they grow disoriented…With their homing magnets befuddled by a transmitter’s electromagnetic fields, they end up circling its towers, whose guy wires become the blades of a giant bird blender.

 

Reading google headlines gets one nowhere. A BBC News article starts saying that a wind farm in Norway was killing off white-tailed eagles. Further down, a leading conservationist is quoted as saying that most wind farms were not threatening to birds, but that this particular was badly situated near a designated Important Bird Area. The next item from the Telegraph, tells of study findings that birds “are not bothered by wind turbines.” Half-way through the article it is made clear that bird deaths from hitting turbines were not studied, rather, if their presence caused birds to avoid them. (They don’t, and that’s of course where the crash deaths come in. Perhaps this was the reason behind the study, to show that they flight right up to the things, but the article leads the casual “skimmer” to the idea that turbines are a-ok.)

An article at Treehugger which reassures that the turbines don’t go fast enough to kill anything, and that the whole thing is an Eco-myth, lead me via comments to research on wind farms’ hazard to bats (migrating, nocturnal, therefor susceptible to their navigational systems being thrown).

Wind turbines are not alone in causing in-flight deaths and certainly not the worst offenders. Cell phone and transmission towers, high tension wires (bad enough in wealthier countries, a nightmare for migrating birds flying through “developing” ones like Turkey), and glass buildings all kill off hundreds of millions of birds every year. If the construction of wind farms goes hand in hand with real scientific research as to how to do the least damage to wildlife, then I am all for it.

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2 Responses to >More about wind turbines

  1. wunelle says:

    >This is one of those things where it’s difficult to get good information, and people are likely to mistake–and advocate–their hopes for hard information.In any case, it’s hard to imagine that wind farms are more harmful for birds (and all other creatures) than our continued reliance on fossil fuels, which are threatening to heat us all off our planet. (Still, maybe they are; and then the information will solidify eventually.)

  2. Marcellina says:

    >Agreed. In the end it seems the much lesser of two evils. One cannot say that the towers are completely harmless, but there are a lot worse things out there for them. Also, as someone at Eschaton pointed out, as long as we keep filling in wetlands and erasing habitats, towers or no towers, we’re killing them off.

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