In response to a comment from Wendy Wissler Luckenbill about how she likes seeing windmills on the hilltops in Pennsylvania but is concerned for the birds, I have some information from Chris Hise, Director of the Four Canyons Preserve owned by the Nature Conservancy in western Oklahoma. http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/northamerica/unitedstates/oklahoma/placesweprotect/four-canyon-preserve.xml It is a very unique place with a mixed grass and shortgrass prairie and deep ravines where the trees survive. It is a place of red rock and vistas. Here is a description from the Nature Conservancy website:The Conservancy's Four Canyon Preserve encompasses 4,000 acres of mixed-grass prairie, rugged canyons, and floodplain along the Canadian River in southern Ellis County. Scenic prairie ridges traverse the landscape, dissected by deep chinquapin oak-lined canyons draining to the river. These prairies provide habitat for a number of rare grassland birds, such as Cassin's sparrow and Swainson's hawk, and additional species of concern including reptiles like the Texas horned lizard, as well as numerous state-rare plants. The cool, wooded canyons stand in contrast to the surrounding prairies, and provide habitat for birds like red-bellied woodpecker and painted bunting. The Canadian River on the preserve provides habitat for the federally endangered least tern, the threatened Arkansas River shiner, as well as stopover habitat for migratory shorebirds including the sandhill crane.
Photo courtesy of the Nature Conservancy website
Chris expressed concern to me, when we were there filming the preserve and interviewing him, about the siting of windmills so often on mesa tops and the potential to disrupt and kill wildlife. Here is what he had to say, bear in mind that he would like to see alternative energy like wind and solar succeed but we really need to plan and think about where it is installed.
In Chris's words:
Wind development can cause significant habitat avoidance issues for
certain species, particularly grassland birds like Lesser Prairie
Chickens, which tend to avoid vertical structures. Many sites with high
wind resource values occur on ridges between major stream drainages...
these rough and rocky areas are often the last remaining native prairie
areas in an otherwise agricultural landscape, and are valuable habitat
for declining grassland birds and other native species. Bats may suffer
high levels of mortality at wind energy facilities... they may be
attracted to insects congregating near turbines, and can suffer severe
lung damage from the air pressure drop behind the spinning blades. They
may also collide with the tall structures at night during migration, as
the moving blades cannot be avoided using the bats' echolocation.
The National Wind Coordinating Collaborative recently released a 'fact
sheet' on bird and bat interactions with wind turbines... it is
available online at http://www.nationalwind.org//publications/bbfactsheet.aspx You may
wish to read this document for more details.
This quote below from the above mentioned study summarizes I think the fact that any changes we make as humans have their impact:
Wind energy's ability to generate electricity without many of
the environmental impacts associated with other energy
sources (e.g., air pollution, water pollution, mercury
emissions, climate change) could benefit birds, bats, and many
other plant and animal species. However, possible impacts of
wind facilities on birds, bats, and their habitats have been
documented and continue to be an issue. Populations of many
bird and bat species are experiencing long‐term declines, due
in part to habitat loss and fragmentation, invasive species, and
numerous anthropogenic impacts, increasing the concern over
the potential effects of energy development.
I am glad to see that the National Wind Coordinating Collaborative is looking at how wildlife is impacted and possible solutions for siting and changes to the newer equipment that can be implemented. Driving cars and glass windows in houses cause bird mortality so very little of human activity has no effect on the world we live in. I welcome any more comments or debate on this subject on this blog. I would love to see eventually a total shift to renewable energy but we must do it with as much wisdom as possible.