BOWLING GREEN OH – The Lake Erie shoreline is no stranger to energy plants.
The shoreline, from Toledo to Buffalo, is dotted with numerous coal-fired and nuclear power plants, but the advent of wind-driven energy technology may bring even more power plants to the Lake in the form of giant commercial wind turbines.
In Cleveland, a major off-shore project is now underway, and in Canada several are already in operation. With the “green energy” push gaining traction, there is increasing talk about building even more large turbine along the wind-rich shores of the lake, a potential move that has bird biologists very worried.
In Bowling Green, near the four current city wind turbines, researchers from the University of Toledo and Bowling Green State University have begun a study to discern what type of impact these giant 300-foot turbines might be having on birds, especially the migratory birds that are active now as they journey from Canada to winter nesting places in the southern hemisphere.
The southern shore of Lake Erie is a major flyway and stop over point for the birds and the research in Bowling Green is focusing on how the migratory birds may be impacted by the structures. Jeremy Ross, a graduate student in biology, has been setting up a van full of equipment to scienticially measure the potential collisions or avoidance by the nocturnal migrants. He is also watching the impact on bats which are also known to collide with the structures at night. Ross, who is part of a team of researchers from both BGSU and UT, says he hopes this study will help inform future decisions about where to place the turbines. There is great interest by some promoters to place them just offshore on Lake Erie, but wildlife biologist Mark Sheildcastle who founded the Black Swamp Bird Observatory at Magee Marsh, says he worries that the typical behavior of migrating birds to fly lower as they look for resting places will put then in harms way. Especially the smaller songbirds and warblers. He too is concerned that even if the birds are not physically harmed by the churning blades of the turbines, that they will have their normal migration patterns disrupted by new structures and they may avoid them and find new migration routes.
That has the BSBO’s Executive Director, Kim Kaufman equally concerned. Northwest Ohio, says Kaufman, could suffer a huge economic impact if the migrant birds stop moving across the region. “During the first two weeks of May this area(Magee Marsh)” will have over 50,000 visitors who come here from all over the world to see the migrating birds. They spend millions of dollars for the local economy.” That revenue, Kaufman fears, could be in jeopardy if wind turbines disrupt the migration.
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