Big Wind Turbines Prove No Deadlier to Wildlife Than Small Units


When it comes to wind power, bigger turbines may not mean more dead bats and birds.

That’s the finding of research published Wednesday in the Journal of Applied Ecology, which showed that wildlife deaths remained constant per unit of energy produced regardless of turbine size, according to a U.S. Geological Survey news release.

Wind farms already pose a risk to birds and bats, and the conclusion may help ease concerns that an industrywide shift to fewer turbines but bigger blades would kill more wildlife. Dog-handler teams and scientists searched for carcasses at a wind farm near Palm Springs, California, to gather data for the study.

“Location, as well as the amount of energy production, are likely stronger determinants of wildlife deaths than the size of turbines installed,” said Manuela Huso, a USGS research statistician and the lead author of the report. “Simply replacing older and smaller wind turbines with newer and larger machines generating the same amount of energy has little effect on the rate of wildlife mortality.”

Wind turbines are getting bigger, and President Joe Biden wants more of them. The infrastructure plan he’s unveiling Wednesday would give a 10-year extension to tax credits that have been a boon to wind, solar and other renewable energy projects.

The industry is replacing smaller and tightly spaced turbines that each have a lower power capacity with fewer, larger, higher power-capacity turbines installed farther apart to generate similar or greater electrical energy output within the same area, according to the USGS. Vestas Wind Systems A/S will start selling the world’s biggest offshore wind turbine, expected to come into use in 2024. The turbines will stand taller than the highest point of the Golden Gate Bridge.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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