Bird deaths stir oversight for US wind power

The growing U.S. wind power industry is drawing increased scrutiny from states and the federal government over the problem of spinning wind turbines killing birds.

The California Energy Commission last week adopted voluntary guidelines to reduce wind energy effects on wildlife, and Washington state, Montana and Texas among other states are reviewing measures.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, part of the Department of the Interior, also is developing voluntary procedures for wind projects, a spokeswoman said.

Wind power, which is expected to increase by 26 percent in power generating capacity this year, is mostly unregulated in the United States except by county boards, city councils and local planning commissions.

When looking at ‘green’ technology it is important to remember that there are still environmental costs associated with such technologies and consideration of those costs have to be part of the decision making process. Too often this isn’t the case as people jump on the ‘green’ bandwagon.

A study issued by the National Academy of Sciences in May said the percentage of birds and bats killed by collisions with wind towers and spinning turbine blades was small compared with kills from vehicles and buildings.

Relying on such a blanket statement can be dangerous. While it may hold true for most areas, there may be certain areas where the number of birds and bats killed are not negligible and the impacts can be significant. Each wind farm is unique and assessments should be made for every wind farm to determine the likelihood of significant mortality (or other environmental costs), and those costs should be included in any cost benefit analysis.

‘Green’ technology is really just greener technology; there are still real environmental impacts that have to be assessed.

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