Negative Effects Of Wind Turbines On Humans – Climate change is a global concern; Changing habitats will be dangerous for humans and wildlife alike. Energy changes such as wind power, solar power or hydropower, and eating less or no meat may be the only ways we can save our planet.

Wind turbines are a source of renewable energy and many countries are already using them; the clean energy they produce and their simple construction make wind power a prime candidate for saving the planet. However, their impact on wildlife is a topic that many scientists have been researching for years.

Negative Effects Of Wind Turbines On Humans

Negative Effects Of Wind Turbines On Humans

Coastal land use – Wind turbines on high ground use more land than those on hilly land, but it is not the main structure of the turbine that uses all this space, the blades. Each turbine should be separated by approximately 5 to 10 rotor diameters.

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In the US, research found that they use between 30 – 141 acres (depending on location) per megawatt of energy. The land left between wind turbines can be used for grazing, farming, roads or walkways. Wind turbines can also be built on abandoned or unused industrial land, reducing the use of good residential or agricultural land. Despite this, many of the impacts of wind turbines on wildlife include not only direct mortality but also habitat fragmentation and destruction, noise pollution, attraction of predators, and mild climate change.

Albert Manville, a US naturalist, says that approximately 440,000 birds are killed in the USA every year because of wind turbines. This is because birds migrate using wind waves with the same energy which is very beneficial for generating wind energy.

It’s not just the birds that are affected. California squirrels emit a loud call to alert other members of their group when prey is nearby, and may be forced to call higher to compensate for the noise from the turbine. A behavioral study of ground squirrels using playbacks of alarm calls was conducted. The study recorded their responses at two locations, one near the turbine and one further away. Individuals close to the wind turbines had higher levels of awareness of their surroundings and returned to their burrows quickly after sounding the alarm, compared to those individuals further from the site, indicating that the squirrels’ vigilance increased due to reduced hearing ability.

Despite this, another study conducted in Europe found that the distribution of wintering farm birds (corvids, game birds and Eurasian skylarks) was not affected by wind turbines. No consideration is given to avoid areas near wind turbines; however, pheasants are killed as they are the largest and most unruly species of bird in existence. This study was very important as it was the first to suggest that the current and future construction of wind turbines will have a minimal negative impact on farm birds. Despite this information in other countries such as Spain, it has been found that wild birds and bats about 6 – 18 million are killed by wind farms, shocking statistics.

Ways To Protect Bats And Birds From Wind Turbines

Marine use – Offshore wind turbines are becoming more common in many countries, however wind turbines are too large to withstand the weather and sea forces. There are concerns that the size of these offshore turbines could interfere with marine activities such as fishing. Seabirds, fish and other marine wildlife can be affected by these turbines, although most studies say this is very small. Some experiments suggest that they may even increase fish populations by acting as artificial reefs, similar to sunken ships.

A study looking at common eiders found that there were fewer deaths from wind turbines. The movement and noise of the rotating blades meant that the common eider avoided the turbines when flying over shallow water, and bird numbers remained stable.

Noise pollution from wind turbines is unlikely to cause hearing impairment in marine mammals. More research needs to be done as the low frequency hearing abilities of different species of marine mammals vary, but it has been found that the impact of noise on marine mammals is worse when wind farms are built than when they are fully operational.

Negative Effects Of Wind Turbines On Humans

The construction of wind turbines themselves can cause significant environmental costs and impact on wildlife. The factors that cause the greatest impact on the environment are the following:

Benefits Of Wind Energy

Some scientists believe that it is not possible for some turbines to reverse their carbon footprint by producing clean energy during their lifetimes resulting from their creation and installation. Read more about the negative impact of wind turbines here.

Bats are often affected by human populations because they live long and have a low reproductive rate so their growth is slow (you can read more about bats and their life cycle here). Any major changes in their habitats or habitats can cause severe decline and threaten the population. Wind turbines have been recorded doing just that.

Most bats should be able to avoid blades by using echolocation. However, they can still injure bats due to pressure changes as the turbine blades rotate, which can cause bleeding. More information on this can be seen in the infogram opposite.

Some wind farms are located in areas where there are poor feeding opportunities for bats and where there are no migration routes, to reduce bat mortality. However, in some areas, bat mortality is very high. In the US, this was higher in areas where there are plains and agricultural areas with dormant plots, food opportunities and migration routes. Of the 47 species of bats known to live in the USA and Canada, 21 of them have been reported killed by wind turbines.

Wind Energy And Environmental Impact Of Wind Turbine Projects

In Germany, an estimated 10-12 bats are killed per year per wind turbine. During the last ten years of the construction of wind turbines in Germany, it is estimated that an alarming two million bats may have been killed in total.

In 2016, the University of Exeter conducted research on bats and turbines in the UK. After reviewing 29 wind farm sites that had evidence of bat activity, they estimated that there were at least 64 deaths per month in total across all sites in the study.

Most of the bats killed around the world are not just high-flying migratory species. Wing-feeding, fast-flying species are at risk – insect-gathering bats and frugivorous bats (fruit eaters) are also killed by wind turbines, but at much lower rates.

Negative Effects Of Wind Turbines On Humans

In another study based in Germany, 72% of bat deaths were from noctule bats, while only 28% were migratory bat species. The highest proportion of deaths were females from the migratory bat species, but in the local species the main victims of the turbines were children. Migratory noctule species are at high risk of being killed by wind turbines, and especially females and juveniles.

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Most of the bats killed in southern Europe have been Pipistrellus species, Nyctalus species and Leisler’s bats. Rare species such as barbastelle, Myotis species and species of long-eared bats have also been killed but in much smaller numbers.

Although it has had a negative impact on wildlife, research into wildlife behavior and advances in wind turbine technology have actually helped reduce these deaths. For example, scientists have found that bats are more active when the wind speed is low. With this information the wind turbine companies concluded that the turbines should not operate during periods of low wind speed, which would benefit the bats, and would not affect energy production. In Germany they used a similar method which showed that there were about 50% fewer bat kills due to lower wind speeds. Choosing a better location for turbines can also benefit bats: by choosing areas that are not suitable for bats to roost, bat mortality can be reduced.

Researchers at the University of Aberdeen are currently making progress in generating electromagnetic signals from radar as a way to try to prevent bat species from coming into contact with wind blades.

Bats rarely fly over the ocean, so offshore wind turbines are another solution to reducing bat mortality. Their impact on marine wildlife is also much lower than land-based turbines. The Nysted offshore wind farm in Denmark is built on the swan flyway; however, duck mortality was recorded to be very low, less than 2 birds per year per tower constructed.

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Eurobats guidelines suggest that wind turbines should be no closer than 200 meters to woodland, while Natural England suggests that the blade tips of turbines should be at least 50 meters away from woodland or walls.

A Spanish company called Vortex bladeless has designed a bladeless turbine. Instead it is designed to move through the air, using that for power. According to the company the new turbines are 53% cheaper and 51% cheaper to operate than conventional wind turbines.

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