Wind turbines kill birds and bats

Cody - Wind turbines produce clean energy, but scientists say they kill more than a million bats and birds every year.  The Wyoming Nature Conservancy is developing a guide to help the wind farms protect the animals from deadly collisions in the future.

When golden eagles fly, they sometimes are looking down for prey instead of looking ahead.  And, sometimes they don’t see the turning blades of a wind turbine.  So, eagles, and thousands of smaller birds and bats are accidentally killed by wind farms.

Director of Science Nature Conservancy in Wyoming, Holly Copeland remarked, “Over a half million birds and about a million bats, a study in 2013 by Smallwood, et al showed. And if you run those numbers out for Wyoming there are about 5000 grassland birds we would be losing every year…there was a paper that showed 20 eagles and in addition to that Duke Energy reported 52 eagles as well.”

Copeland recently toured Duke Energy’s Top of the World wind farm in Converse County.  She said they’re testing a new system that detects incoming eagles, and stops the turbine blades from turning.

She explained, “The initial reports, at least, from Duke Energy on their Identiflight technology to detect eagles and shut down wind turbines near flying eagles sounds promising.”

But, in a recent presentation in Cody, Copeland said the best way to stop the kills is to keep future wind farms from being built near wildlife habitat. So, the Nature Conservancy is developing maps of Wyoming, with overlays of areas that are already disturbed, like farms and other energy developments.

She said, “If we can site those turbines in places with least conflicts with wildlife, that would be the best outcome for us.”

Copeland said ongoing studies on habitats where eagles flourish, like the ten year study near Cody, may also help protect the species.  Copeland said her organization is working with energy developers to help them find better places to build new wind farms.

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