The rush is on to build scores of large, commercial wind energy facilities in and around the Great Lakes, in Canada and the United States. From the proposed Galloo Island and Lighthouse projects in New York to Camp Perry and Icebreaker in Ohio and Amherst Island and White Pines in Ontario, developers are looking to flood the region with renewable energy. But at what cost?
Many see renewable energy, including wind energy, as an important way to cut our dependence on fossil fuels and address global climate change. But this “green” revolution has a dark side. Collisions with wind turbines are killing hundreds of thousands of birds and bats annually. When you include collisions and electrocutions at associated power lines and towers, the number of birds killed climbs into the tens of millions.
These impacts are likely to grow along with the number of turbines and power lines constructed, a number that is increasing rapidly. American Bird Conservancy estimates that by 2050, when wind energy is projected to produce 35 percent of our electrical energy, as many as 5 million birds per year could be killed by turbines in the United States alone.
From the perspective of wildlife conservation, the Great Lakes are one of the worst possible places to put wind energy. During spring and fall, these large freshwater lakes pose a significant barrier to birds and bats during their annual migration to and from the boreal forests of Canada where they breed. Vast numbers of birds and bats, many of which migrate at night, gather along the shorelines and eventually fly along or over the lakes. Advanced radar studies conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Michigan, Ohio and New York have all confirmed the danger that large-scale wind energy development poses to migratory birds and bats in the region.
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