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.

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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.

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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.

Finding the Most Appropriate Renewable Energy

Energy is very important nowadays. Contemporary people can hardly imagine their existence without it. Humans always tried to produce cheaper and safer energy. Nature provides us with the energy we can renew daily. It provides people with the benefit which nobody can argue. It almost has no negative impact on the surrounding and is considered to be rather safe.

The cost of alternative energy systems has dropped sharply in recent years

When the scientists revealed that greenhouse gas effect led to the change of world’s climate they began to look for all possible ways to prevent the catastrophe. Fossil fuel does not give the chance to renew it after the use while sustainable energy can. In addition, fossil fuel is running out. That forces people to search some new ways to restore it. The depletion of sources motivated scientists to develop new methods of energy production.

A country or even some particular geographical area should select a suitable type of renewable energy source. It usually depends on sources the region possesses. For example, countries which are situated on the equator can benefit from solar energy while those regions which lack sunny weather should better provide themselves with hydro energy or biomass energy.

There are regions which are trying to find the most appropriate renewable energy type. For instance, Massachusetts varies the use of different renewable energy sources. The state government proves that their region is able to provide the citizens with more wind’s energy than with any other ecologically safe power supply. The use of wind energy is beneficial for the state not only because it is ecologically safe but also because it has an economic advantage. They produce both offshore and onshore winds’ energy.

Yearly industry report manifests that the first one is even cheaper and ranges up to sixteen cents one kilowatt per hour. Such energy is clean and beneficial. In 2009 the government of Massachusetts issued the project of developing offshore ocean energy for a number of its regions. This plan proves the indisputable convenience of wind power use for this concrete state of America.

Despite the fact that wind power is rather sustainable, the US industry report relies greatly on solar energy use. This conclusion is based on three main reasons. The first and most influential is the fact that not all American regions can provide wind energy because of geographical peculiarities. By the way, some scientists and consumers find it rather complicated due to huge transmission lines it requires. That is why solar energy is more effective.

All regions receive the sun energy almost equally and they can depend on it mostly. The next factor that influences the choice of solar energy is its permanency and regularity. Wind turbines are more inconstant than the solar ones. Solar panels are able to generate energy even if there is no sun. Clouds cannot stop the penetration of sun rays completely. Due to that, scientists in Massachusetts also found solar energy to be rather beneficial and constant. The last factor that contributes to the number of advantages of solar panels use is their productivity. They are capable to produce more energy than the turbines which are enabled by winds.

The experiment of solar and wind energy testing lasted during thirteen days in Massachusetts. It took place at the beginning of January. Solar panels managed to produce thirty-five kilowatt-hours of pure electricity. At the same time, the winds turbines had hardly provided the territory with fourteen kilowatt-hours of clean energy. The outcome of the experiment supported the idea of solar panels efficiency compared to the wind turbines productivity on Massachusetts territory.

The investigation reasoned the use of solar and winds’ energy. Even if some type of renewable energy is less effective still it provides humans with ecologically safe power. It is unsound to refuse at least from one of them. All renewable energy gives the chance to save the planet from ecological disaster and improve human lifestyle and health condition.

About the Author

Lauren Bradshaw started academic writing in 2003. Since then she tried her hand in SEO and website copywriting, writing for blogs, and working as a professional writer at CustomWritings professional essay writing service. Her major interests lie in content marketing, developing communication skills, and blogging. She’s also passionate about environment, philosophy, psychology, literature and painting.