With more than 50,000 wind turbines in place across the U.S., wind power now accounts for 8 percent of the nation’s energy-generating capacity — and experts predict that figure could rise to 20 percent by 2030.
But all that clean, renewable energy comes with a high cost to the nation’s wildlife. Researchers estimate that 140,000 to 328,000 birds are killed every year in collisions with the turbines’ spinning rotor blades and support towers. The risk to birds is highest at night, when the blades and towers are cloaked in darkness.
Now researchers at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, have hit upon what could prove to be a simple way to protect birds from wind turbines. They’ve used the “signatures” of birds that are visible in raw weather radar data to generate bird maps and live migration forecasts designed to alert wind farm operators to the presence of birds at peak times.