Green vs. green: Feds enact voluntary guidelines to reduce enviro impact of wind farms

Green vs. green: Feds enact voluntary guidelines to reduce enviro impact of wind farms

Summary: Remember the reason for U.S. Airways' spectacular emergency plane landing on the Hudson River two years ago now?

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TOPICS: Telcos
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Remember the reason for U.S. Airways' spectacular emergency plane landing on the Hudson River two years ago now? I'll refresh your memory: a flock of birds was caught in the engines, which then shut down. The same specter of avian carnage looms over the progression of wind turbine installations across the United States and the issue rose to the fore during a conference this week about onshore renewable energy development.

This one falls under the purview of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, which is scrambling to assess and address the environmental impact of developing renewable energy technology on public land. The issue under scrutiny right now is the impact of land-based wind turbines on birds and bats. The danger is clear and present: some projects could interfere with bird migratory patterns or they could result in trauma deaths and injuries from the turbine blades. Bats are also a challenge. Bat fatalities have been reported at every major land-based wind turbine farm, for reasons that scientists are still struggling to determine.

To address this issue, the federal government has drawn up draft guidelines for steering how birds, bats and other wildlife should be considered when a utility-scale or community-scale wind project is being planned. These guidelines are voluntary right now. Here's an excerpt from the draft, which describes the environmental threat:

"The Service recommends that developers carefully investigate sites at the landscape as well as local scale to determine whether there is a risk of direct or indirect effects to species and their habitats. Direct effects include blade strikes, barotrauma, loss of habitat, and 'displacement'. Indirect effects occur later in time and include introduction of invasive vegetation that result in alteration of fire cycles; increase in predators or predation pressure; decreased survival or reproduction of the species; and decreased use of the habitat that may result from effects of the project or resulting 'habitat fragmentation'."

The voluntary nature of the guidelines has irked some environmental groups such as the American Bird Conservancy. That's because in 2010, the Department of the Interior approved nine commercial-scale energy initiatives on public lands that could product almost 4,000 megawatts of energy. Those projects will create a lot of new jobs, but no one really knows what environmental impact they will have.

This is one of the biggest dilemmas that green-tech advocates will face as renewable energy projects become more commonplace. I've already talked to several large companies that were considering wind as part of their green power portfolios but opted against the technology because the environmental impact on the associated land was too uncertain. Expect this debate to intensify.

Topic: Telcos

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18 comments
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  • A little common sense please

    First off, has any study been done comparing what the effect on nature and the environment would occur using the current Fossil Fuel based solutions to create 4000 new MegaWatts of energy. <br>Second, I don't think you are giving the birds and bats enough credit. I think they would pretty quickly learn to avoid these, at the end of the day, simple obstacles. Of course, learning to avoid breathing, eating, and drinking which is what is required to avoid the effects of fossil fuel pollution is a bit more difficult.
    mitchbird
    • exactly...

      Exactly mitchbird...

      And to add to that...

      Should we remove the trees because the bats and birds might fly into them as well?

      How bout high voltage power lines? Birds and bats get fried on those all the time...

      The fact is, this is total nonsense.. Tree limbs blow and move in the wind.. and during high wind, when the turbines would be moving, nothing is in the air (the birds and the bats dont fly in heavy winds)... This is nothing more than a politician making more work to steal away more money under the table and away from those that could actually benefit from it... It's ridiculous... Retarded... Stupid... Idiotic... You would have to be a total moron to think a wind turbine is going to take out a bunch of birds or bats... sheesh. I live within a few miles of some of Californias biggest wind farms, there are tons of birds and bats everywhere. I have never seen one hit a turbine.
      i8thecat
      • RE: Green vs. green: Feds enact voluntary guidelines to reduce enviro impact of wind farms

        @i8thecat: You should get out more. Huge numbers of birds and bats DO hit these regularly and the problem will be far greater if nothing is done. I am not saying wind power has to be abandoned. It would likely be feasible to make some kind of system to warn or otherwise direct the birds away from the blades. A small hawk-sized electric plane could fly an appropriate pattern and come in to be recharged periodically. This may sound elaborate and impractical, but the price of such technology has been falling dramatically lately.
        le3e
    • RE: Green vs. green: Feds enact voluntary guidelines to reduce enviro impact of wind farms

      @mitchbird The birds that have for decades flown into the windows of brightly lit skyscrapers and those who circle lit gas rigs in the gulf til they die of exhaustion and fall into the sea don't seem to be learning at all. The ones who die can't pass on the warning and the ones who don't die haven't learned anything.

      Yes, I realize fossil fuels are a disaster.
      le3e
      • RE: Green vs. green: Feds enact voluntary guidelines to reduce enviro impact of wind farms

        @le3e and @i8thecat - the electric hawk or some sound to drive them off, sounds good. No one has ever suggested we stop making buildings with brightly lit windows or lit gas rigs (at least not for the bird's sakes) so why this. I tell you it is just to steer the funds away from this to solar; bet the ABC mentioned in the article got a 'chunk o change' from some angel somewhere. PS ...and the ones who were smart enough not to die went on to pass on the genes that made them smart enough to not die ... I think they call it natural selection :)
        mitchbird
  • RE: Green vs. green: Feds enact voluntary guidelines to reduce enviro impact of wind farms

    How do you like that. Even clean, sustainable energy can impact the environment negatively. Thank God he gave us dominion over animals.

    China is building two coal fired power plants a week to insure their economy has cheap energy. America is now shipping coal to China since we are not allowed to burn it here. That will not clean the air but it will help keep Americans unemployed!
    Repeal
    • RE: Green vs. green: Feds enact voluntary guidelines to reduce enviro impact of wind farms

      @Repeal - Good point. How is the environment served by burning the coal over there instead of here...
      Want to know a secret?
      The POTUS is heavily invested in Solar ... you can bet on it.
      mitchbird
      • Ever heard of a &quot;blind trust?&quot;

        @mitchbird The president currently has no idea how his own money is invested. It's in a blind trust, just like Bush's and Cheney's money was when they were president and veep. He more likely (unknowingly) owns shares in an energy giant like Exxon-Mobil.
        djchandler
      • RE: Green vs. green: Feds enact voluntary guidelines to reduce enviro impact of wind farms

        @mitchbird - I have been to two rodeos AND a county fair and may, know something you don't. I'm not talking about his 'blind trust'...
        mitchbird
  • Typical and expected reaction from the Enviros

    The Enviros are *never* happy. They view MAN as the root problem, and as such, they have, and will continue to have, an objection to any way we devise to produce energy - even something as simple as a wheel turning in the wind...
    Kentsc
    • RE: Green vs. green: Feds enact voluntary guidelines to reduce enviro impact of wind farms

      @Kentsc - You are probably to young to remember rivers that could develop film or catch on fire. There was a neighborhood in Central Florida that someone noticed 80% of the residents had contracted or died from Cancer in the last ten years ... you could get a house cheap there. Now, that was big business helping the economy ... wouldn't you say? The Enviros, as you called them, may never be happy but it seems the Politicians are able to keep big business happy and they are the reason we have, and need, Enviros.
      mitchbird
      • RE: Green vs. green: Feds enact voluntary guidelines to reduce enviro impact of wind farms

        You reported me as spam because you didn't like what I said... shame on you, Troll.
        mitchbird
    • RE: Green vs. green: Feds enact voluntary guidelines to reduce enviro impact of wind farms

      @Kentsc - You are probably too young to remember rivers that could develop film or catch on fire. There was a neighborhood in FL that they discovered had an 80% Cancer rate among residents; sure could buy some cheap houses there even before the bust. You would probably call that Big Business helping make housing affordable, no?
      As long as we have the gov and bb working hand in hand to destroy our mother we will need the 'Enviros'.
      mitchbird
    • Humanity's technology IS the root problem.

      @Kentsc And we used to hunt whales to obtain oil to burn in lamps, eat pigeons in pies (at least the poor did), and display buffalo hides and heads as trophies.<br><br>Our natural ecological niche is hunter-gatherer, what one would see in the most primitive of human cultures. I am not suggesting that we can't apply technology to enhance our survivability, only that its uses inevitably has consequences. There are always trade-offs involved in applying any solution. It's simply a matter of what consequences we are willing to live with.<br><br>One consequence of some of our technology is that the population of humans has possibly already outstripped the resouces of this single planet to sustain the lives of all of us. If one considers the standard of living that most Americans demand, the problem is even more pernicious. Can the entire world's population live like Americans do? Not with our current technology, that's for certain.<br><br>As a species, our record speaks for itself. Why would any species hunt another to extinction, sometimes simply for sport, i.e., the passenger pigeon. The American bison and the humpback whale nearly met a similar fate. Is applying a little foresight in this instance unreasonable?<br><br>The question is, is killing birds and bats an acceptable trade-off for developing (what we currently believe to be) a a clean and sustainable energy resource? We don't have the answer to that yet.
      djchandler
  • RE: Green vs. green: Feds enact voluntary guidelines to reduce enviro impact of wind farms

    This battle was fought over wind turbines in the vicinity of the Columbia River Gorge. The outcome of the environmental impact statement was that only red-tailed hawks cruised in the altitudes used by the turbines. Red-tails are the most common hawk species in North America. Losses would soon be replenished by population pressure from surrounding areas. In the meantime, rattlesnakes and coyotes would benefit from the reduced competition. It's an ill wind that blows nobody good.
    tmoughon
    • RE: Green vs. green: Feds enact voluntary guidelines to reduce enviro impact of wind farms

      @tmoughon - Indeed. And @everybody else thanks for not calling me a natsy or worse.... peace out.
      mitchbird
  • RE: Green vs. green: Feds enact voluntary guidelines to reduce enviro impact of wind farms

    @ le3e you are right...it can be done and that at this time would be the best compromise. -

    We cannot save everyone and everything while trying to save ourselves and this planet. There has to be a give and take and in some cases a win or loose. It Ain't easy being Green

    cmc
    cmc68
  • another case of unintended consequences rising up

    Wind turbines are by and large a joke. They rarely produce the advertised output and they generate their power during times we don't need it (several studies across several countries, Google the data). They're very noisy and when they come apart the shrapnel is deadly. They don't save very much fossil fuel as spinning reserves equal to the wind generation has to be kept on line to take over when the wind dies off (as it often does, ask Texas and Britain).

    Solar is a much better choice (just now). Solar panels are not yet efficient enough to create a net operating profit and ROI, but new technology is raising efficiencies from 15% to upwards of 27% (see M.I.T. et al). Once you break around 25% efficiency you actually get an economically viable system. In the mean time solar heated liquid systems ARE generating power with a profit. Maintenance of the mirrors is a bit of a nightmare currently though.

    If you have to subsidize it, it probably wasn't a good idea to begin with.
    wizardjr