With all the concerns about conventional energy, wind and solar energy are often seen as saints of the energy sector. Clean and renewable, they too impact our environment. Many environmental groups are now speaking out against green projects.
Loss of habitat is the largest threat to endangered and threatened plants and animals, and the construction of wind and solar stations are impacting many endangered species. These projects reduce habitat size and create population sinks—zones which attract animals and then leads to their death. For example, birds see turbines as perching sites. The areas under turbines are often grassy and attract prey.
Under the Endangered Species Act it is illegal to kill or take endangered species and threatened wildlife. However these projects are granted “take” permits, which make allowances for a certain number of deaths as long as the project protects the species elsewhere.
The Ivanpah solar power project in the Mojave desert covers 3,400 acres of prime real estate and the home of the federally endangered desert tortoise. Developers have spent millions of dollars to rehabilitate and relocate the desert tortoise, yet the number of impacted tortoises has been much more than the experts predicted. Hatchlings in a nursery have been attacked by army ants, trucks have crushed the tortoises, and one small tortoise tagged with a microchip was carried off by an eagle.
In Maryland the Criterion wind farm is impacting the federally endangered Indiana bat. In addition to collisions with turbine blades, a new condition has been discovered that can be fatal to bats. Air pressure around moving turbine blades will drop suddenly, leading to internal hemorrhaging and a quick death, a condition known as “baratrauma”. Bats are known as “K-selected” species, a species that reproduce slowly and live a long time. K-selected species are easy to wipe out.
The desert tortoise in California, however, is a survivor that has survived the dinosaur extinction. They have a 98% mortality rate, reproducing often and with large broods.
Wind and solar energy are clean, safe, renewable alternatives to oil, coal, natural gas and nuclear energy. California must produce over 30% of its energy within the next decade. Have these projects been pushed ahead in order to meet future regulations?
The backlash by environmental groups has many astounded. Environmental groups do not oppose alternative energy, they just want more research into the impacts of the projects before they are given the green light.