Wind energy is increasingly seen as a sustainable alternative to fossil fuels, as it contributes to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. It is estimated that by 2050, wind turbines will contribute more than 20% of the global electricity supply. However, the rapid expansion of wind farms has raised concerns about the impact of wind turbines on wildlife.
Research in that area has been limited and has yielded conflicting results. A new study, published in Energy Science, provides comprehensive data on how turbines affect bird populations.
While the study did find a negative effect on some breeding birds, it also suggests ways to mitigate that effect through wind turbine design and placement, explains Madhu Khanna, professor of agricultural and consumer economics in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois. Khanna is co-author of the study.
“We found that there was a negative impact of three birds lost for every turbine within 400 meters of a bird habitat. The impact faded away as distance increased,” Khanna says.