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Power from windmills is supposed to be great for the environment. But it’s not.
First, big wind farms are gobbling out vast areas of the West that until now were relatively undisturbed, sitting there as grazing land or farm fields, or as scenery.
Then there’s the deadly effect on birds. THe American Bird Conservancy says golden eagles, whooping cranes and a species of sage grouse are especially in danger from wind developments in the West.
The group reports that according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, more than 400,000 birds a year are killed when they are struck by the fast-moving blades of wind turbines.
“This figure is expected to rise significantly, and will likely eventually pass the million mark as wind power becomes increasingly ubiquitous under a Department of Energy plan to supply 20 percent of America’s power through wind by 2030,” the group says in a statement to the press.
The blades are not the only problem. As wind farms are developed in the desolate places where the wind is the strongest and most steady, additional transmission lines have to be strung across the West. The conservation group says large birds such as whooping cranes, whose migration takes them across the places where transmission lines will have to go, are killed as they hit the wires.
The American Bird Conservancy urges improvements in the design of turbines and towers to minimize the damage. But even if that’s done, large wind farms still will mar the landscape and disrupt the feeding areas of migratory birds. And nothing can be done about transmission wires.
None of that would even come up as a problem if the nation, and states including Oregon, had taken a sensible approach to energy production that doesn’t dam up more rivers and put out more emissions.
It would have been smarter to encourage small generating stations closer to cities, powered by natural gas or the new generation of nuclear stations. And in rural areas where the wind is steady, households can make use of individual generators that are cylindrical and have no bird-chopping blades. (hh)
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