Wind Industry Overcomes Drawbacks

Wind power is a renewable energy source that requires no fuel to operate. it does not produce any emissions that are harmful to the environment. Wind turbines are made of plastic and metallic materials, so they don’t have any radioactive or chemical impact either.
Wind farms take up much less space than conventional power plants, and they also don’t produce noise pollution.
There are drawbacks, however.
Electricity produced from windmills, generally, costs more than that produced from traditional sources like natural gas and coal. At best, wind farms produce electricity at an efficiency rate of 30 percent, compared to a 70 percent efficiency rate from natural gas and coal. Wind energy is also unreliable. Electricity can’t be stored; it must be produced on demand, yet wind is inherently unpredictable. Back-up generators are needed to make sure enough electricity is available to meet demand.
Wind farms may have an impact on local weather patterns. As environmental engineers have discovered, wind farm propellers create turbulence in their wake, mixing air up and down with effects that can be detected for miles. But more efficient rotors may significantly reduce this problem.
Birds
A primary concern with wind farms is the impact — literally and figuratively — on wildlife.
There is no state requirement of bird mortality for Red Hills.
Acciona has developed an incidental monitoring protocol that we use at all operational wind farms, said Kari Hernandez, company spokeswoman. Monitoring is performed by staff during routine operations. Once the wind farm is operational, Acciona environmental staff visit the site to present the species that may be observed at the project and how to monitor and report for mortality.
“These reports are shared with the local U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on a regular basis in a manner that is open and constructive” Hernandez said. “Even though post construction monitoring may not be required by an agency, Acciona is operating the project in a mindful way so that we can detect issues and address them accordingly.”
“The habitat of the Lesser Prairie Chicken happens to over-lay the same territory as these windmill farms across northwestern Oklahoma,” said Russ Horton, wildlife research supervisor with Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Department. “So, the potential for conflict is there.”
The danger is not a threat of impact or collision with the blades, but that the Lesser Prairie Chicken is a ground nesting bird and avoids vertical structures, Horton said. The bird perceives the windmill tower as a raptor perch.
Part of the nature of any ground-nesting bird is to be aware and avoid vertical structures that would provide a raptor perch, Horton said.
There are about 3,000 Lesser Prairie Chickens. The species is not on any endangered list but some consider the bird threatened.
While there is a potential for a collision to occur between migratory birds and the blade, Horton disputes the threat.
“With migratory birds that pass through the territory, if conditions are right there is the potential for a collision,” Horton said. “But the wind industry has done a significant amount of work to address it. Most significantly, they have gone away from the lattices on the towers, they have reduced the blade speed and they eliminated the guy wires. All those things tended to lend themselves to catastrophic bird kills.”
Another concern in western Oklahoma is the number of bats and bat caves where the mammals breed, Horton said.
Bats are injured with the change in air pressure created by the spinning blades.
“The sudden change in air pressure is a concern,” Horton said.
Sound
Oklahoma has no statutes for required sound levels, said Skylar McElhaney, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality.
Red Hills was designed to operate under a rating similar to sounds in a quiet suburb at any time of the day on the outside of all occupied residences, said Hernandez.
“The design is based on the highest sound-producing wind conditions possible and does not account for any sound losses due to terrain, foliage, etc. Experience suggests that the turbines are operating within these specifications. Also, ACCIONA utilizes voluntary setbacks as Oklahoma has no statutes or required sound levels,” Hernandez said.



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