Wind Energy Blog No. 2: The Nature Conservancy

| 3/18/2011 1:10:02 PM

Wind Energy Blog 2 Turbine RoadWind energy has a lot of benefits for the environment compared with power from fossil fuels. However, wind energy and specifically wind farms can have serious detrimental impacts on the environment if the proper research, planning and placement of the farm are not taken into consideration.

Rob Manes, who currently works at The Nature Conservancy, began working in wildlife conservation 10 years ago at the Wildlife Management Institute. As he was working there, he began hearing about the placement of large commercial wind farms on the landscape and began to wonder if there were negative impacts to wildlife caused by these wind farms. Since this time, Manes has been involved in the placement of several wind farms and has helped in the development of guidelines for wind farms in several states and at the national level.

Despite the many concerns about the impacts these wind farms can have on wildlife, there are no current regulations that developers must follow before building their sites.

“The unfortunate situation with wind energy development is there are — in Kansas and in most of the country — no regulations that affect the sighting of a wind farm,” Manes says. “So if a developer chooses to ignore any ecological concerns and just go out there and haphazardly develop a wind farm there is really nothing to stop a developer from doing that except for the will of private land owners.”

While some state departments have voluntary guidelines for these farms, there are no requirements stating that wind companies must meet with organizations such as The Nature Conservancy to get advising on where to place these farms, Manes says. Some developers have been concerned about their impact and have approached The Nature Conservancy asking for their advice on where to place a wind farm, but unfortunately others have not.

When a wind farm is not properly placed, it affects wildlife in various ways. Many prairie chickens are being displaced from where they nest and brood — this limits their population. Researchers fear this could develop into a large problem and worry these animals are only a step away from being on the endangered list. Other animals negatively impacted include various species of grassland birds, because they won’t nest and raise their young around tall structures. Bat populations have also been negatively impacted both by colliding with turbines and by barotrauma — a phenomenon that causes a bat's lungs to burst because of the low pressure behind spinning turbines.

t brandt
3/25/2011 5:22:02 PM

There's also the problem of defunct wind mills blighting the landscape:

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