AWWI Releases Updated Summary of Research Results on Wind Turbine Interactions with Wildlife

AWWI is pleased to release the 2015 update of Wind Turbine Interactions with Wildlife and their Habitats: A Summary of Research Results and Priority Questions.

This document summarizes current scientific knowledge about the adverse impacts of land-based wind power on wildlife in North America, and how to avoid and minimize these impacts. The Summary of Research Results does not address the benefits that wind power might provide to wildlife through the displacement of other energy sources and of their impacts on wildlife and wildlife habitat.

Recent studies cited in the Summary of Research Results have mostly confirmed or refined previous findings, including:

  • Fatality rates from wind turbines do not appear likely to lead to population declines in most bird species, although as many species decline because of a host of other factors, the potential for biologically significant impacts to some species, such as raptors, may increase;
  • A substantial majority (approximately 60%) of bird fatalities at wind energy facilities are small passerines (birds, including songbirds that are under 31 cm/12 inches in length, such as sparrows and larks);
  • Some bat species may be attracted to explore wind turbines, especially at low wind speeds;
  • There is concern that prairie chickens and greater sage-grouse will avoid wind energy facilities, with one study finding that nest survival and nest success in greater sage grouse decreased in proximity to turbines, although female survival did not differ with distance from turbines.

“In order to meet the highest level of scientific rigor, this fact sheet builds on peer-reviewed research and is itself reviewed by a team of scientific advisors,” said Taber Allison, AWWI Director of Research and Evaluation. “AWWI hopes that this fact sheet will serve as a rigorous, impartial resource for conservation, wind energy, decision-makers, and the general public, as we all seek to understand the impacts of wind energy on wildlife and develop solutions that avoid and minimize these impacts.”

The fact sheet also summarizes what the science currently tells us about avoiding and minimizing risk and impacts. Some of those findings include:

  • The lighting currently recommended by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for wind turbines does not increase collision risk to bats and migrating songbirds;
  • The effect of turbine height on bird and bat collisions remains uncertain;
  • Curtailing blade rotation at low wind speeds results in substantial reductions in fatalities of bats;
  • The use of ultrasonic transmitters may deter bats but further testing and enhancement of the technology is needed;
  • Few data are available on the effectiveness of UV paint coatings and other methods aimed at making turbines more visible to birds.

AWWI updates the Summary on annual basis. The previous version was released in January 2014. AWWI thanks all those who contributed their time and expertise to this Summary.

The American Wind Wildlife Institute (AWWI) is a partnership of leaders in the wind industry, wildlife management agencies, and science and environmental organizations who collaborate on a shared mission: to facilitate timely and responsible development of wind energy while protecting wildlife and wildlife habitat. We envision a future where wildlife and wind energy thrive, allowing all of us — wildlife and habitat included — to reap the climate change mitigation benefits that wind energy makes possible.