Windmills No Threat to Cats

One of the objections often stated for windmills in the increasingly strident debates that stand to do nothing by grow in coming years is that the long swirling blades of mountaintop windmills spell massive death to birds.

Turns out, we’d be better off to control our burgeoning feral domestic cat population than to avoid a potential source of energy in our rather bleak future as easy oil goes the way of the dodo bird (an extinct species that succumbed to predation in part by cats imported to the Mascarene Islands where they once lived). Here are some interesting figures that come from a recent study of wildlife impact of mountaintop wind generators: link

A long-awaited federal report on the environmental impact of wind power suggests birds have far more to fear from high buildings, power lines and cats than they do from the swirling blades of wind generators at Altamont Pass and elsewhere.

But North America’s bats might have plenty more to worry about, according to a report released Thursday by the National Academy of Sciences.

The report said bats might be at considerable risk in the southwestern United States and elsewhere, where reliance on wind power has been growing. The wind-power turbines generate sounds and, possibly, electromagnetic fields that lure the acoustically sensitive creatures into the spinning blades, scientists suggested.

In the United States in 2003, wind generators accounted for only three-thousandths of 1 percent of bird killings — no more than 37,000 birds. That same year, possibly as many as a billion birds died in collisions with buildings, and electrical power lines may have accounted for more than a billion more deaths, the report said. And domestic cats were responsible for the demise of an estimated hundreds of millions of songbirds and other species every year.

In the eastern United States, up to 41 bats are killed annually for every megawatt of wind energy generated along forested ridge tops, the report said.

One of the more interesting and potentially palatable sources of wind energy would come from interstates, inherently already aethetic sacrifice areas. Have you ever stood on the side of the interstate with a crippled car and practically been blown off your feet by a passing 18-wheeler?

At Engadget you can see pictures of two prototypes of hiway wind-to-current sources: one overhead, the other in the median barrier panel. Makes sense to me. So instead of NIMBY, how ’bout YPOOI…Yes, Please On Our Interstates.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. A thoughtful essay. (That’s why I like coming here so much!!!) I’ve understood the cat threat to birds for a long time, and one quail hunter I know says he will shoot any feral cats he sees around his farm. (Ironic. He will kill and animal that kills the animals he wants to kill himself.) That windmill plan on the interstates would never work in Kansas City because just as soon as they finish a stretch of highway, they come along and tear it all out to make it bigger. So the windmill would never stay in place long enuf to generate a watt of electricity.