In the 1980s little was known about the potential environmental effects associated with large scale wind energy development. Although wind turbines have been used in farming and remote location applications throughout this country for centuries, impacts on birds resulting from these dispersed turbines had not been reported. Thus early wind energy developments were planned, permitted, constructed, and operated with little consideration for the potential effects on birds. In the ensuing years wind plant impacts on birds became a source of concern among a number of stakeholder groups. Based on the studies that have been done to date, significant levels of bird fatalities have been identified at only one major commercial wind energy development in the United States. Research on wind energy/bird interactions has spanned such a wide variety of protocols and vastly different levels of study effort that it is difficult to make comparisons among study findings. As a result there continues to be interest, confusion, and concern over wind energy development's potential impacts on birds. Some hypothesize that technology changes, such as less dense wind farms with larger, slower-moving turbines, will decrease the number of bird fatalities from wind turbines. Others hypothesize that, because the tip speed may be the same or faster, new turbines will not result in decreased bird fatalities but may actually increase bird impacts. Statistically significant data sets from scientifically rigorous studies will be required before either hypothesis can be tested.
Additional publication details
Studying wind energy/bird interactions: a guidance document. Metrics and methods for determining or monitoring potential impacts on birds at existing and proposed wind energy sites