Is Wind Energy a Danger to Migrating Birds?

We’ve explored the heady possibilities of wave energy…But what about wind? Wind turbines, those modern day versions of Don Quixote’s windmills, may have some environmental drawbacks, according to research being carried out by the Israel Ornithological Center, a branch of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel. The study appears to center around a growing concern by ornithologists (bird watchers) that large revolving turbine blades could be deadly to the thousands of migrating birds who pass through Israel annually on their journey to and from summer homes in Russia and Eastern Europe.

Dan Alon, Chairman of the Israel Ornithological Center, was quoted recently that his organization is presently doing research into what effect hundreds of wind turbines might have on migratory birds. Israel is on a major bird flyway, which is part of the Syrian-African rift, which extends from north of Israel and Lebanon all the way to Southeast Africa. Growing interest in Israel to use wind turbines to supply up to 10% of the country’s electricity needs means that a number of wind turbine “farms” will be established to benefit from the almost daily wind currents which reach Israel from both the Mediterranean Sea and the Golan Heights. During the spring and fall, large numbers of migrating waterfowl, including cormorants, cranes, flamingos, pelicans, and several species of ducks and geese are in danger of being killed or seriously injured by hitting these wind turbine blades, many of which will be positioned in the very paths that these migratory birds take.

The same is also true for large numbers of raptors such as hawks, falcons, eagles and vultures who use air currents to help them stay aloft during their long migratory flights. It is estimated that at least 200,000 migrating birds fly through Israel during the migratory season, many of them at night. As wind turbines are constantly rotating, it is virtually impossible for birds to see the swiftly rotating turbines during the night and hence could easily collide with them. This same concern is also being expressed in other countries which have migratory bird routes as well, including the U.S.A.

Various proposals have been made including shutting down the turbines when large flights of migrating birds are passing over. This idea has been objected to by proponents of wind turbines as it would disrupt the benefits of energy created by the constant moving turbine blades. Opponents of wind turbines say that the maximum benefit gained by them will only be about 5% of Israel’s total electricity needs. Migrating birds have already created hazards at the country’s airports, and this is despite efforts to disperse the birds by using sounds and other means to scare them off.

Those opposing the erection of large groups of wind turbines say that areas such as West European coastal regions are much more suited for these turbines as they have greater wind velocities than those found in Israel. Perhaps much better alternatives, including solar energy, and use of hydrogen fuel will in the long run be more practical than wind power and will be safer for our feathered friends too.

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