Study finds wind turbines killing migratory birds

BENTON COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) – According to a recent study, wind turbines are killing not only local birds but some coming from hundreds of miles away.

Wind turbines are known to produce a clean form of energy, helping the environment. But in some cases, they’ve been known to hurt the environment.

“Lots and lots of flying or volant animals are killed by wind turbines. That’s just a fact,” Purdue College of Agriculture professor Andrew DeWoody said.

In northern California, the Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area is home to nearly 5,000 wind turbines. The wind farm is responsible for dozens of bird deaths annually.

Researchers with the U.S. Geological Survey and Purdue University want to find out where the birds are coming from.

“Purdue is involved in trying to look at the genetics of these birds to figure out whether they are local birds that were born and hatched near the Altamont site, or whether they are birds from other parts of the country that are actually migratory,” said DeWoody.

He said the numbers are alarming.

“It doesn’t sound like 75 or 100 bird deaths may not be that many, if we’re talking about chickadees. But if we’re talking about a long-lived species that lives to be 30 years old, has a 25-year breeding span on average and we cut that short, it can have demographic consequences,” said DeWoody.

While there’s a cause for concern on the west coast, is there a problem here in Indiana?

“Do we have that many killed in White and Benton County? No, we don’t have nearly that many eagles, but it’s certainly a cause of mortality I’ll put it that way,” DeWoody said.

Mike Kidwell is the vice president of operations at Auxilius Heavy Industries, which is a service provider for wind turbines in Benton County. He said he’s never seen a problem locally with wind turbines killing any type of birds.

“I myself have never found one, [and] I’ve been here since 2008. So, I help do construction on the Fowler Ridge Wind Farm and I haven’t seen any birds or any of those sort of things since then,” said Kidwell.

Although there may not be a concern in Indiana, DeWoody said he’d like to one day see a world where eagles weren’t killed by any form of energy.

“It’s a constant struggle between humans and wildlife, you know, it just is,” DeWoody said. “And it’s gonna continue to be for the foreseeable future.”

Worldwide, DeWoody said wind turbines have killed hundreds of thousands of birds and more than one million bats.

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