The United States is now the world's leading producer of wind energy, with tens of thousands of wind turbines in operation and many more planned. As a result, bird mortality from collisions is escalating every year, especially in areas where turbines and their associated power lines and towers have been poorly sited from the perspective of bird conservation.
The annual loss of birds from wind turbines was estimated as high as 573,000 in 2012. However, vastly more turbines are in operation now, and more than 1.4 million bird deaths are projected by 2030 or earlier if the U.S. meets its goal of producing 20 percent of electrical energy with wind. If that figure reaches 35 percent, as new Department of Energy projections suggest, up to 5 million birds could be killed annually. These estimates do not include birds that are killed by collisions with associated power lines and towers, which could be in the hundreds of thousands or even millions annually.
Alternative energy is critically important to address pollution and climate change, but we strongly believe that renewable energy sources should not be embraced without question. Our Bird-Smart Wind Energy Program's primary goal is to protect U.S. native birds from the rapidly growing threat of poorly sited and managed wind turbines.
Our work on wind energy and birds is an important component of our efforts to “eliminate threats” and “conserve habitats.”
We helped to halt one of several wind energy projects planned for the shores of Lake Erie, in one of the most significant bird migration corridors in the Western Hemisphere and home to a large Bald Eagle (shown) population. The result occurred following submission of a letter of intent to sue from ABC and Black Swamp Bird Observatory. Read more.
The proposed Mill Creek project in northwest Missouri will be relocated away from a globally Important Bird Area, based in part on our arguments that it would kill unacceptable numbers of federally protected birds. We applaud the developers for their forward-looking decision. (See story on page 10 of this newsletter.)
We raised serious concerns about a plan to construct additional commercial wind turbines in Huron County, Michigan. As many as 600 additional turbines could be added, some within the Saginaw Bay Important Bird Area and less than three miles from the lakeshore, in defiance of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) recommendations and potentially affecting birds like Kirtland’s Warblers (shown). The fight goes on.
We formally petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect migratory birds from the negative impacts of wind energy, asking for regulations to safeguard wildlife and reward responsible wind energy development. Our petition was rejected when first submitted in late 2011, but a revised version is now being seriously considered.
We thank the Leon Levy Foundation, the Robert J. Kleberg, Jr. and Helen C. Kleberg Foundation, and other donors for their support of ABC’s Bird-Smart Wind Energy Campaign.