Project Aims to Make

Wind Power Bird-Friendly

A project that tracked bird movements in the Great Lakes could reduce the number of birds and bats killed by new wind turbines planned for the basin.

Description

Wind turbines are becoming more common in the Great Lakes basin as the demand for clean energy increases. Studies have shown that much of the Great Lakes basin has tremendous potential for generating wind power, but the massive turbines that turn wind into electricity can also threaten bird and bat populations. Birds crashing into wind turbines is a serious concern in some areas of the Great Lakes, particularly along the Lake Erie coast in Ohio, which is located in one of the nation’s busiest corridors for migratory birds. Wind turbines have killed numerous birds in other parts of the United States, a problem that has resulted in lawsuits, fines and, in some cases, costly changes for wind turbine operators. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is trying to minimize the conflict between wind turbines and birds in the Great Lakes basin by making wind power “wildlife friendly.” The agency received $2 million from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to purchase two avian radar units, which track flying birds and bats. The devices help researchers map the busiest bird migration corridors, the timing of migration, and areas with the largest populations of non-migratory birds and bats. In addition to the radar units, biologists also placed more than 30 acoustic monitors along the shores of lakes Michigan, Huron, Erie and Ontario to obtain more data on the movement of birds and bats. Fish and Wildlife Service officials said data from the project could guide where new wind turbines are located, thereby protecting migratory birds and bats. That will become increasingly important as demand increases for clean energy sources, such as wind power.

Resource Challenges Addressed

  • Migratory birds killed by wind turbines
  • Migratory bats killed by wind turbines

MAKING GREAT LAKES WIND POWER BIRD FRIENDLY

Radar images of bird migration.

These radar images show the dramatic increase in bird migration at night. The image on the left was captured during the day, while the image on the right was captured at 10 p.m. Photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Results and Accomplishments

Researchers have mapped the busiest bird migration corridors and areas with high concentrations of bats. The data will guide where wind power facilities and communication towers should be located in order to minimize the impact on birds and bats.