Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Hot Zone

There has been a bit of controversy surrounding the use of wind power and the potential collateral losses of wildlife. Are those impacts significant- or not? David Quamenn, my favorite science author, had an excellent article on Migration in the Nov. 2010 National Geographic. It featured photos of losses in terms of the bat populations. They don't even have to hit a blade to die, basically they "explode" due to negative air pressure cause by the spinning turbine.

Green cleaner energy is a good thing and I may even be persuaded to accept some collateral losses in wildlife, if I knew what numbers we could expect. I don't buy anything without asking the cost first. A few birds and bats maybe a reasonable cost....

........................................photo by Dave Lewis

Unfortunately, we won't know until we do the science. We don't have good research data on what impact wind power would have in a migratory stop-over vs. a turbine out in a mid-Ohio cornfield. I may be willing to accept some losses in Mid-Ohio- my backyard- but I sure would like to have someone tell me the "cost" before we litter this red zone with wind factories.

This map was created by Ohio Division of Wildlife and ODNR.
They spent quite a few dollars protecting Bald Eagles and nursing their numbers back from the edge of extirpation. The red or "hot" zone is where ODNR feels wind power would have extensive cost to wildlife. The orange circles- (the red zone would be littered with them) represent known Bald Eagle nests. Since they are Federally protected I would guess you agree, no one wants to see these majestic birds subjected to a obstacle course of fan blades.

So lets keep our wind power in the green- the minimum impact zone.

................................Buff-breasted Sandpiper photo by Dave Lewis
"Wait, wait wait..." Mr. Buff Breasted says. "Aren't you calling for a complete STOP on all wind power in the red zone?"
Well actually, no. We are asking for a 3 year moratorium on the three miles closest to the lake (represented by the black dotted line on the map.) BSBO and Bowling Green University both are planning studies. Give us three years to conduct these studies, and then we will know the cost.
We could be skating on thin ice. Let's check it out.

Let's get the information before we accept an irrevocable impact on our migrating birds. This moratorium is for such a tiny section of the state of Ohio, it will hardly crash our economy. Let's get the facts, and base our decisions on science. (See BSBO website for more info.)
I have great hopes that the two schools that have already placed wind turbines in the red zone will work with scientist to study the impact on migrating species. This could even be an awesome opportunity to work with biologists and study good science as data collectors. Maybe we can all learn something, if we only work together.


  1. Hi Cheryl, Good points! I too am a David Quammen fan even though I read only two of his books: The Dodo's Song, a great explanation of island biogeography, and "The Reluctant Mr. Darwin."

    By the way, if you want all of your ideas about renewable energy to possibly be shaken up, get a copy of "The Rational Optimist," by (another amazing science writer, author of "Genome," "The Red Queen,"The Origins of Virture" and a great little biography of Francis Crick, the British science journalist Matt Ridley. He contends that, throughout history, societies have always run out of "renewable" energy, and he makes a compelling argument against policies that would rush us into inefficient land-consumptive, standard-of-living-lowering substitutes for fossil fuels either for energy or agricultural fertilizers.

    Bob Klips

  2. Thanks Bob-
    Quamenn also has a book "The Boilerplate Rhino"- well worth reading. I have seen several articles in Nat Geo authored by Quamenn, so apparently they have picked up on his incredible talent.

    The more I learn about wind power- the more I suspect the only ones making out are the companies getting the government subsidies. Sad but true.

  3. Thanks Cheryl for this post and for caring about wildlife.