By Jacey Gould

Over time, our world’s efforts to use more sustainable power for our homes and machines has greatly increased. Along with these developments, much controversy has arisen surrounding which source of energy is the best. Wind power has been a tricky subject in this debate. It is also a subject that I have been unsure about for a long time.

Wind does not release greenhouse gases into the environment, so wind turbines seem to be the perfect option. However, I am now concerned about using them, because wind power has a host of negative effects on the world.

The Truth about Wind Turbines

Sure, some negative comments about wind turbines are pretty trivial. A lot of them have to do with their appearance or their sound level, but there is one crucial problem with wind turbines.

According to the National Audubon Society, thousands of birds are killed every year by this source of energy.

“Wind turbines kill an estimated 140,000 to 328,000 birds each year in North America, making it the most threatening form of green energy. And yet, it’s also one of the most rapidly expanding energy industries: more than 49,000 individual wind turbines now exist across 39 states.”

Why the Dangers are Significant

So, why does this matter? It matters because birds are an essential part of our ecosystem. Birds nurture their habitats through insect population control and helping plants grow.

It may seem as though I care too much about birds. It’s also easy to think that there are so many birds today that they aren’t in danger of disappearing. However, according to Science magazine, it’s a mistake to assume this.

“Species extinctions have defined the global biodiversity crisis, but extinction begins with loss in abundance of individuals that can result in compositional and functional changes of ecosystems.”

Data of North America’s bird population from the past 48 years has shown that the net population of many bird species that were once abundant in 1970 has decreased by nearly three billion.

Possible Solutions

After being made aware of this problem, scientists have attempted to develop special turbine blades that are supposed to stop when they detect birds. However, the reliability of the technology is questionable. Many cases have been reported of the radar not working properly, still resulting in bird deaths.

The good news is that, because of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act has been put into place. Its purpose is to protect migratory birds through “mak[ing] it illegal to take, possess, import, export, transport, sell, purchase, barter, or offer for sale, purchase, or barter, any migratory bird, or the parts, nests, or eggs of such a bird except under the terms of a valid Federal permit.” 

The act also covers deaths of migratory birds caused by human beings–even accidental deaths caused by wind turbines. Through this act, activists hope to hold wind farm owners accountable for their negligence of birds’ safety in this area.

Owners of wind farms have also taken it upon themselves to attempt to “scare the birds away” through various tactics such as ultraviolet lights. Another idea has been to put cameras in the turbines that would be able to shut down at the sight of a bird. These are good ideas in theory, but there’s no way to prove that they would actually work. This is why my stance against wind power is still the same. However, that is not to say my opinion won’t change.

The Additional Effects

But wind farms don’t just affect birds–they also affect bats.

But you probably don’t care about that. So instead I will focus on the fact that, besides bats, wind turbines also affect human beings in various unexpected ways. Many health problems have occurred with people living near wind turbines.

“The adverse effects include issues such as continuing sleep disruption, fatigue, annoyance producing increased levels of stress and/or psychological distress, headaches, tinnitus, earache, difficulties with balance, cognitive impairments, hypertension, palpitations, nausea, and compromised quality of life.”

This, surprisingly, is due to the sound of the turbines, which has a frequency below 500 Hz. Low-frequency noise affects sleep quality and increases stress levels in people. So, if you didn’t care about the bird mortality rate, maybe you’ll care about this. Either way, my opinion is that if we want renewable energy, wind farms are not the way to go about it.

My Proposed Solution

So what do I propose instead, you ask? Well, I certainly don’t propose fossil fuels instead of wind power. If I had to choose one, I would choose wind power in a heartbeat, because according to GreenMatters, “Studies indicate that fossil fuels are still 15 times more responsible for killing birds than wind farms.” 

My ideal solution sounds self-contradictory, but I don’t think it is in the grand scheme of things. We should not get rid of wind farms. While people continue to innovate to make more bird-friendly turbines, owners of wind farms should continue operating them as usual in the meantime.

Halting wind power until it has been perfected would be silly. More birds would die if we reverted to fossil fuels during that time than if we just stuck with wind power. This is why I believe that wind turbines– even though right now they’re harmful to nature– will be a fantastic source of energy for all once they have been developed to be safer.