How to Reduce the Ecological Footprint of Wind Turbines

Wind power is the second most widely used renewable energy source in the U.S., just behind hydropower. Unlike solar, wind power creates little to no pollution and requires very little maintenance. However, it has one significant problem — a detrimental effect on wildlife and the local ecosystem.

Industrial wind farms wreak havoc on bird and bat populations, plus they pose an ecological disturbance to the land. While the energy generation is incredibly sustainable, the influence turbines have on local wildlife populations adds controversy to the success of this energy source.

wind-farm-Lake-Turkana-Kenya

The future implementation of wind as a leading source of energy will depend on our ability to reduce its ecological footprint. Employing best practices that work to minimize adverse effects on local habitats will play an integral role in the construction of new farms.

Analyze Data

Determining the exact impact of wind turbines on wildlife is hard to discern. The number of birds and bats killed from direct contact is only one variable. The long-term effects on food chain supplies, population and habitats are hard to quantify. The first step in reducing the environmental impact is determining where the influence is greatest.

Research estimates that in North America alone, wind turbines kill an estimated 140,000 to 328,000 birds each year. This statistic does include other flying creatures, like bats, whose populations have been significantly affected by wind farms.

Bats are essential to the function of our ecosystem and food system. In 2015, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) added guidelines about the voluntary process of halting turbines at lower speeds during periods of the night when these animals are most active. These efforts may reduce deaths by up to 30%, though research demonstrates an extra delay could potentially increase that number to 90%.

Land Use Planning

Close attention to site selection and preparation may curtail the consequences of wind farms on the surrounding environment. Construction is a major ecosystem disruptor, as installing transmission lines and removing soil can hurt plants and animals in the vicinity. Experts encourage many wind companies to engage in erosion control practices, which includes re-establishing native vegetation and other restoration techniques.

Wind farms are generally criticized by their inflexibility when it comes to site location. Compared to solar panels, which can be installed on buildings and utilized across a diverse array of environments, wind farms are more limited. One benefit, however, is that people can establish these turbines on abandoned industrial land. The ability to re-purpose previously degraded land with a renewable energy source is a victory for wildlife and humans alike.

downned-pylons-windfarm

If the wind is too strong, wind turbines can’t operate safely and must shut down.

A final consideration when it comes to reducing ecological impact includes preventative measures, such as monitoring a habitat before construction. By tracking the environment before breaking ground, builders can better determine the best location for the farm.

Innovative Technology

As wind power becomes a cost-effective and energy-efficient option, advanced technology will lessen the impact of turbines on wildlife. According to U.S Energy Information Administration, the wind industry is collaborating with the U.S government to find optimization solutions.

Several ways exist in which wind farms can reduce their impact on local habitats and take preventative steps affecting animal and bird populations. One example includes Ultrasonic Acoustic Deterrents (UADs), which emit a loud noise that deters bats but is incomprehensible to the human ear.

Other solutions include painting wind turbines purple or shining ultraviolet lights on the structures to alert migratory species. Some manufacturing companies plan to make innovations in how to construct these structures. Changes include alterations to the blade surfaces and more sound-absorbent materials.

A Comprehensive Approach

The cost of wind power has dropped almost 50% in the last four years. With an increased incentive to invest in renewables, experts predict the number of wind farms around the world to grow rapidly in the next decade.

Wind power has many benefits, one of which being that, unlike solar, return on investment for the production and installation of turbines is five to eight months, with each structure designed to produce for at least twenty years. With an increase in implementation, the ecological impact is unavoidable. As a result, the focus will be on reducing the footprint of wind turbines, rather than decreasing their utilization as an energy source.

15 Simple Ways Your Family Can Save the Planet

Life, the miracle of the universe, appeared about 4 billion years ago, and we, humans – only 200,000 years ago. But we have already succeeded in destroying the balance that is so important for the life on Earth. What do we actually know about life on Earth? The tenth part? Or maybe the hundredth? Earth is a real miracle. Life remains a mystery.

Trees grow towards the sun, which feeds their foliage. Animals are adapted to their pastures, and their pastures are adapted to them. As a result, everyone wins. Animals satisfy hunger, and plants flourish again. In this great life journey on Earth, each species has a particular function and takes a certain place. There are no useless creatures. They are all balanced.

And Homo sapiens – a man of sense – enters the arena of history. He received a fabulous inheritance that the Earth has carefully preserved for 4 billion years. He is only 200,000 years old, but he has already changed the face of the world. Despite his vulnerability, he captured all the habitats and conquered the territory like no other species before him. Today, life – our life – is only a link in the chain of countless lives following one another on Earth for 4 billion years.

For a long time, the relationship between people and the planet were fairly balanced and resembled a natural and equal union. Now, we rarely think about global issues, being lost in everyday concerns. Meanwhile, we are on the verge of a disaster. Thanks to the achievements of science and technology, people learned to satisfy their needs, but some inventions brought us much more harm than good. We are killing our planet gradually but purposefully.

Planting more trees and vegetation will go a long way in reducing heat in urban settings.

These 15 simple tips do not require you either time or extra effort. Only by changing your habits quite a bit, you and your loved one can make the world cleaner and safer.

  1. Make the most of natural ambient light. Turn off the light in the room or the computer monitor when you do not need it. And do not forget about the chargers in the appliance receptacle!
  2. Teach yourself to turn off the water at a time when you do not need it – for example, while brushing your teeth or rubbing the pan with a detergent. On average, according to statistics, 5-10 liters of water (depending on pressure) flows out of the tap per minute. Also, reduce the time spent in the shower for 1-2 minutes.
  3. Replace incandescent bulbs with LED: they save energy and last longer.
  4. Change to a bike. It is cool, fast, and comfortable. Having tried only once, you no longer want to get on the “hot bus” or spend time stuck in traffic jams. In addition, a bicycle is an excellent vehicle as it does not pollute the air with dangerous gases.
  5. Use phosphate-free detergents. On the Internet, there are many resources offering ecological household chemicals.
  6. Buy less plastic bags, go to the store with your eco-bag.
  7. Replace plastic with paper and glass. If you cannot do without disposable tableware – for example, when going on a picnic – use paper plates and cups rather than plastic ones.
  8. Choose cosmetics and chemicals especially carefully. You should give preference to products that have not been tested on animals and do not adversely affect the environment at different stages of production.
  9. Though it is as simple as ABC but very effective – try to bring plastic, glass, and paper for recycling.
  10. Bring batteries to special shops and institutions because this is a dangerous and very toxic type of waste.
  11. Refuse semi-finished products. Experts say that today, the manufacture of these products is fully controlled by monopoly companies that abuse antibiotics, overload the ecosystem, and apply the principles of intensive management for their own profit. Of course, in such conditions, quality suffers. Homemade food is much better. Do not know how to cook? A dating site may be helpful.
  12. Buy local food – the one that is made in your area. This food undergoes less chemical treatment which is sometimes used for long-term transportation.
  13. Use water filters. In this case, you do not need to spend money on bottled drinking water. Thus, you will not only save your family budget but also reduce the environmental impact caused by the production and transportation of plastic bottles.
  14. Plant flowers on window sills and trees in the courtyards. Do not let anyone cut down green spaces near your house.
  15. Support environmental organizations and encourage your family to do it.

“Orbiting Earth, I saw how beautiful our planet is. People, let us preserve and increase this beauty, not destroy it!”

– Yuri Gagarin

Pet Waste Management in UK – Prospects and Challenges

Pet waste is a growing public health and environmental risk. According to a report commissioned by the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association, 13 million UK households (45%) keep pets of some kind. Cats and dogs are each kept by 8.5 million households (these numbers are not additive, as some will of course keep both).

pet-wastes

Can those of us who want both the joys of animal companionship and waste minimisation, find ways to cut down, or better manage, the huge amount of pet waste generated in the UK every year? With so many cats and dogs in the UK, pet waste must represent a significant mass of organic matter within the residual waste stream.

Does this waste represent a floater in the residual waste stream by necessity—due to inherently unpleasant and possibly dangerous characteristics of the waste—or is it only there out of convention and squeamishness?

I’ve written before about the relationship between waste management and squeamishness, and talking about faeces really brings the point home. There are some undoubtedly nasty pathogens present in pet faeces, notably the parasites Toxocariasis and Toxoplasmosis. But might these be safely killed off by the temperatures reached in anaerobic digestion (AD). If so, provided any litter and bags were made of organic matter, might pet waste be collected along with food waste?

I began by contacting a local authority waste officer, but was told that no one had asked this question before, and that I might be better off talking to AD plant operators. This I did, but most seemed similarly baffled by my query. However, one mentioned that AD digestate goes through a pasteurisation process, where it is heated to a temperature of 70oC for one hour, in order to make it safe for land application. I also attempted to contact some technical specialists in the field, but to no avail.

There are some theoretical indications that this pasteurisation should be sufficient. Hanna Mizgajska-Wiktor and Shoji Uga’s essay Exposure and Environmental Contamination states: “Anaerobic waste treatment kills Toxocara spp. eggs at temperatures in excess of 45oC”, well below the 70oC mentioned by my operator. The susceptibility of Toxoplasma to heat is less clear, although numerous internet sources suggest this can be killed in meat by cooking at 66oC. So far, then, I haven’t confirmed or falsified my initial inkling, and so the collection of pet waste in the municipal organic stream remains a theoretical possibility.

Motivated dog owners can already turn their pet’s waste into a resource within their own home. The website London Worms explains how you can turn your dog’s poo into rich and useful vermicompost, although it warns that the results will only be suitable for use on non-edible plants.

Foul Pay

Household pet droppings may still be largely fated for disposal, but even when binned this waste is at least moving through proper waste management channels. Unfortunately, not all pet poo is binned, and we have real data measuring public perceptions of the disamenity resulting from dog fouling. For most, the presence of this unwelcome waste in our streets, parks and footpaths is of much higher concern than its diversion from landfill. Therefore, it is necessary to make use of biodegradable dog poop bags to keep our environment clean.

A 2011 Defra-funded study on local residents’ willingness-to-pay — via an increase in council tax — for improvements across a range of environmental factors found that dog fouling was the third most important issue out of the presented range (with litter and fly-tipping taking first and second place). Surveys were conducted in inner-city, suburban and rural/semi-rural areas around London, Manchester and Coventry.

In order to move from the current level of dog fouling to the best possible scenario, it was found that inner-city residents would on average be willing to pay £8.87 per month, suburban residents £7.79 per month, and rural residents £2.72. Combining these figures with population statistics allows us to place a disamenity value on dog fouling. National statistics only allow for an urban-rural split, but based on a 2012 Defra rurality study which found that 18.9% of the population lives in rural areas, we can calculate that across England we would collectively be willing to pay £462m per year to achieve best case scenario improvements in dog fouling.

This somewhat crude calculation gives an indication of the perceived disamenity of dog fouling. Presenting the matter in terms such as these may allow economically minded policy makers a means of engaging with this important street scene issue and evaluating the costs and benefits of interventions.

Food for Thought

Let’s wash our hands of poo (with plenty of soap and warm water) and look to the other end of the pet waste problem. According to a report published by WRAP, the UK uses around 75,000 tonnes of primary packaging annually. This holds 1,263,000 tonnes of wet and dry cat and dog food, of which 9,000 uneaten tonnes are thrown away. Although this wasted food constitutes less than 1% of the total sold (if only we were as careful with food for human consumption) the estimated cost to the consumer is still £21m a year.

WRAP examined a number of designs intended to cut to down on the amounts of both pet food and packaging thrown away. A major problem with packaging design is the need to account for portion sizes, which vary from animal to animal and change depending on age and level of activity. Single serve packaging may actually lead to regular food wastage if the portion provided is too big for a particular pet; indeed, this is a problem I am experiencing with my own cat, whose appetite seems to fluctuate wildly. Re-sealable packaging that allows owners to dish out meals in accordance with the changing appetites of their pets is therefore preferable.

The material that packaging is made of is also significant: for example, relatively heavy tins are recyclable, whereas lightweight plasticised plastic foil packets are not. Pet food and its packaging can be pushed up the waste hierarchy by simply choosing a recyclable and resealable container which will allow them to adequately provide for the appetite of their pet. However, these issues are likely to be given less weight compared with health, convenience and cost in the minds of most householders. The onus has to be on manufacturers to develop packaging which is both low cost and easily recyclable.

Love pets, hate waste?

People love animals, but are rather less keen to engage with pets as an environmental issue. Leaving aside questions of whether it is sustainable for so many of us to have pets at all, there are clearly ways in which we can reduce their impact. The convenience of single serving pouches of pet food seems to win out over more recyclable and waste-avoiding alternatives, although pet owners might be willing to change their choices if presented with a better option.

While worrying about recovery options for cat poo might seem somewhat academic, it may be easier to tackle than dog fouling. It might even help to tackle the common psycho-social root of both issues. Cultural distaste perhaps lies behind the lack of information available on dealing with household pet waste, and the persistence of dog fouling as a street scene issue. Things were very different in Victorian London when “pure finders” earned a living by seeking out doggie doo to supply the tanning trade. But for us this kind of waste is a disagreeable fact of life which we deal with as simply and with as little thought as possible. But as a nation of animal lovers, it’s our responsibility to engage with the waste management issues our pets present.

Note: The article is being republished with the kind permission of our collaborative partner Isonomia. The original article can be viewed at this link