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Can A New Windmill Save Birds and Bats?

Can A New Windmill Save Birds and Bats?

Environmentalists and animal lovers are facing a conundrum when it comes to wind power. Wind turbines, with their long blades that rotate at high speeds, kill birds and bats. On the other hand, they are a cleaner alternative to fossil fuels that pollute the environment and destroy habitats. A resolution may be at hand: an inventor claims that his new wind turbine design will not kill birds or bats, will generate more power than existing turbines and will be quieter to boot.

Raymond Green, an 89-year-old World War II veteran, is collecting patents around the globe for his new turbine design. Gizmag offers illustrations and a video about the new turbine, called the Compressed Air Enclosed Wind Turbine. Gizmag explains that the machine, which is shaped like a megaphone,”draws in wind through its wide entrance, pushing it into the more confined space where the turbine blades” are safely ensconced.

Windmills in the U.S. currently produce enough power for 1.6 million homes. (China produces three times as much wind power.) According to the Pennsylvania Wind Working Group, compared to traditional energy sources, running a one megawatt wind turbine for one year saves 1,500 tons of carbon dioxide, 6.5 tons of sulfur dioxide, 3.2 tons of nitrogen oxides and 60 pounds of mercury. There seems to be no debate that wind energy is cleaner than conventional power sources.

There does seem to be debate about everything else. Supporters of wind energy deny that it kills birds in large numbers, or argue that it kills fewer of them than traditional energy sources and other man-made structures do. And there is dispute that Green’s Compressed Air Enclosed Wind Turbine can supply as much energy as the conventional style currently in use.

The U.S. Department of Energy produced a sheet titled “Wind Energy Myths” that downplays the dangers of wind turbines to birds. “Wind farms and wildlife can and do coexist successfully. Wind energy development’s overall impact on birds is extremely low (<1 of 30,000) compared to other human-related causes, such as buildings, communications towers, traffic, and house cats.” The DOE goes on to argue that even though turbines do kill birds, “conventional fuels contribute to air and water pollution that can have far greater impact on wildlife and their habitat, as well as the environment and human health.”

“Windmills kill nearly half a million birds a year, according to a Fish and Wildlife estimate,” the Washington Post reports. The American Wind Energy Association, however, contends that “the current bird kill is about 150,000 annually.” Whichever number is closer to the truth, it appears to have included six golden eagles last year.

A further wrinkle in the situation is the discovery that bats may be at even higher risk than birds. TreeHugger discusses a study reported in Science Daily which found that “bat fatalities at wind turbines far outnumber bird fatalities at most sites.” The study, performed by scientists at the University of Calgary, stated that most of the affected bats are migratory. TreeHugger explains that migratory bats “eat thousands of insects per night (including crop pests) as they move from one region to another. Bat losses in one region could have negative effects on ecosystems far away from the site of wind turbines. Also, because bats have long lives and reproduce slowly, their ability to recover from population crashes is limited.”

Extrapolating from the University of Calgary report’s findings, the Compressed Air Enclosed Wind Turbine may not reduce bat fatalities. The study concluded that bats die on wind farms because of reduced air pressure around each turbine. The researchers found that “90% of the dead bats they examined showed signs of internal hemorrhaging such as could happen with a sudden drop in air pressure,” TreeHugger reported. There is no indication in the descriptions of the new turbine design that it would not reduce the air pressure around it.

The Calgary study also found that about half the dead bats had direct contact with the blades of the windmills, which the proposed design would prevent. A turbine without exposed blades, like the new one, would protect birds more than bats, as birds’ lungs are less susceptible to damage from drops in air pressure and they are more at risk from collision.

In addition to the uncertainty about the numbers of wildlife windmills kill, there is disagreement about the effectiveness of the Compressed Air Enclosed Wind Turbine. Commenters on Gizmag’s article engaged in lively debate about whether the proposed design would be more efficient than the turbines currently in use and even whether it had already been invented. Nevertheless, designer Green has partnered with Sigma Design Company to bring the new design to market.

 

Related Stories:

California Wind Farms Impact Golden Eagle Population

1,000s of Bats Die Every Year From Wind Turbines: Can We Save Them?

Wind Energy Company Will Move Turbines To Protect Raptors (Video)

 

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Photo credit: jerryoldenettell

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6:20PM PDT on Apr 6, 2013

There are a lot of good points here: Rosemary asks, "what is genuinely green energy." Simply the sun. Any method we attempt to use to harness it will always take space, start up, and delivery. Everything will be effected in some way. We can however mitigate our issues. For example, keeping cats and dogs indoors or on leash.

Recently, at a seminar on climate change a speaker we discussed the impact of different energies on the "impact pyramid." Think of it like the diet pyramid the highest impact or dirtiest industry (the bread and butter of carbon emissions) at the bottom is energy production and transportation at about 40%. Now this focuses on air pollution, but bare with me.

If we take steps to eliminate air pollution emissions, we make progress. If we eliminate point source and run-off water pollution (I know, easier said than done), we make progress. If we take steps to reduce interference with wildlife populations we can save individual species.

The big realization here is that we have gone from civilizations that shot things on a daily basis purely for fun, to a civilization where a few uneducated individuals make poor decisions, and economy is driven by public demand.

When we realize this the individual can make a difference as all of you are; Talking about it and pushing companies and politicians to drive the change. They may be greedy, but they listen to consumers. Due to our demand for a greener energy source coal is cleaner than ever, but mountains a

7:14AM PDT on Apr 1, 2013

Gail:

- The point is that you have to check the reasoning of the article, and an article that is published in a reflexively anti-green paper needs to be looked at with special care. And if you look, you find it: They're claiming the wind-mill proponents lied about the savings, when it was the coal proponents that changed the basis of comparison. That's like night and day.

- As said earlier, if you bring up the issue of bird losses, in all honesty you need to be 1000 times more concerned about cats than about wind-mills. Otherwise you are just showing a bias.

6:34AM PDT on Apr 1, 2013

Neal, respectfully I don't think it matters much if the Telegraph is pro or anti green. Anyone who has been even remotely involved in "industrial wind turbine" issues knows the machines are no friend to avian life. I have had personal dealings with them in my town and it was *not* a positive experience. They are, like many big businesses, extremely wily and know how to pull off a deal. Corner them with the truth and they become like wild animals. Of late, one has even threatened to sue a town that refused their offer. Watch: they are becoming extremely argumentative and they truly do "divide neighbors". I often listen to a Toronto, Canada radio program that invites people to call in regard to certain topics, including wind. These people have many turbines in Ontario and they're being shoved down the public's throats. Their experiences are far too negative. I prefer to take my advice from people who 1) were completely in favor of them, but 2) quickly found out they can be a scourge and have actual *experience* living among them. There are very few developers who will be cooperative enough to work with a town to mitigate problems once they develop. Once the turbines are up, they're up for good - and residents are stuck, some leaving their homes or going elsewhere to sleep. I now believe you can have a quiet picnic UNDER a turbine, but can be driven to insanity if you are 1500 feet away and under certain weather conditions. The title of the article, I believe, refe

1:31AM PDT on Apr 1, 2013

Rosemary:

You haven't read the article carefully:
- First: the Telegraph is always very anti-green, reflexively. You always need to try to detect their spin.
- Secondly, the article even explains that the reason the wind-related saving has been reduced is that the NEW coal plants have reduced their target CO2 emissions. Thus, the reduction is NOT due to lying by wind proponents, but instead to "moving the goal posts" by coal proponents.
- Thirdly, if you accept this perspective, you also have to conclude that nuclear, tidal and EVERY OTHER FORM OF RENEWABLE ENERGY also has reduced green impact. And that is the real target of the Telegraph article: to try to undermine the support for all renewables.

People, don't take the bait. A saving is a saving, and we need to get moving pretty darn quick. Don't let the coal promoters distract you.

1:16AM PDT on Apr 1, 2013

What is genuine green energy? Thorium is a safe nuclear fuel that can even mop up the dangerous waste produced by uranium. Also, wave power is worth considering.

1:13AM PDT on Apr 1, 2013

Please, folks, don't believe the wind farm promoters! They are only in it for what they can get in the way of huge subsidies at our expense!

Wind farms are devastating for nearby communities! I can't describe all the problems they cause in just a few words. Meanwhile, here's a very revealing link.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/energy/windpower/3867232/Promoters-overstated-the-environmental-benefit-of-wind-farms.html


The Telegraph is a respected British Newspaper. The Advertising Standards Authority has forced the wind farm promoters to admit that turbines are only half as efficient at displacng carbon emissions as they have been claiming. So they are proved to have lied to con us into thinking wind turbines are 'green'!

We only have a few years before global warming becoms irreversible, and governments are always telling us that money for all sorts of essentials is in short supply. All the more reason to invest it in *genuine* green energy, not squander it on The Great Wind Farm Scam!!!!

12:39AM PDT on Apr 1, 2013

Neil, you are so right! Cat people dismiss this as 'nature'. It is natural for birds to be killed by the predators that are part of the ecosystem they live in. Cats are an introduced predator existing in huge numbers, and, whenever human beings introduce a predator, the effect on wildlife is much worse.

I wish cat lovers would try to understand. Sadly too many find excuses to avoid the issue. Please! If a cat is essential part of your life, I understand, but what about all those other cats? Spaying and neutering should be mantatory except for registered breeders.

7:24AM PDT on Mar 11, 2013

It would be about 1 Million times more important to protect birds against cats than against windmills: Cats kill Billions of birds, not just thousands.

7:09AM PDT on Mar 11, 2013

I hope this works as well as the inventor believes it will!

11:11PM PST on Dec 13, 2012

This invention can both save lives and help the planet? I certainly hope so.

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