Though wind energy is prized for its nonexistent carbon emissions, one of the more unfavorable side effects is a potentially high mortality rate amongst migratory birds and bats. Enter Scotland's Whitelee Windfarm, a possible answer to the problem.
Situated 370 meters (1200 feet) above sea level and 15 kilometers (9 miles) outside of Scotland's largest city, Glasgow, the Whitelee Windfarm is within a 30 kilometer radius of over half-a million people, making it the largest windfarm ever situated in close proximity to a major population center. It is also home to a vast ecosystem, including the Black Grouse, a rapidly declining species of bird in the UK. The now fully-operational project is unprecedented in size, boasting 140 2.3 MW turbines that generate 322 MW of energy--enough to power approximately 180,000 homes (or a city the size of Glasgow). But it is also unprecedented in its concern for wildlife habitat and environmental impact.
ScottishPower Renewables, the group responsible for the Whitelee project, went to great lengths building in and improving the biodiversity of the surrounding areas. This included restoring upland habitats by clearing away non-native trees and improving the lek sites of indigenous birds. Over 2,480 hectares have been set aside for this project.
Back in the U.S. (San Francisco Bay), the Altamont windfarm had to bow to legal pressure from conservationists and alternate shutting down half of its turbines to reduce the high kill-rate of birds. Now considerable amounts of resources are being directed towards finding ways to reduce this potential blight on an otherwise clean method of renewable energy. In the UK the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) details the need for continuous studies so renewable energy can work in harmony with local wildlife.
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