A Long Night’s Journey Into Death

From: http://nimsoh.blogspot.com/

Also, Please sign this petition: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/924/482/794/

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The Lake Erie shoreline is often a very windy place, and major forces are now working to capitalize on the potential for wind power there. As I write this in November 2010, efforts are under way to put up wind turbines – tall towers with long, rapidly spinning blades – all along the lake shore, even in sites immediately adjacent to stopover habitat for vast numbers of birds.

The most frightening thing about this invasion of the bird slicers is that it is being carried out quietly, almost in secret. Amazingly, there are almost no regulations at all on the placement of wind turbines. Even the large, commercial-grade turbines are affected mainly by voluntary guidelines. Mid-sized turbines (which can still be over 300 feet tall) apparently can be put up anywhere, except in the rare cases where zoning ordinances prevent them. Private energy companies have been moving into northwest Ohio, talking to schools, small businesses, and landowners, trying to cut deals to put up wind turbines on their properties, and trying to get the projects going as quickly as possible.

Why the rush? Ironically, it isn’t even about the expectation of big profits from the electricity that will be generated. The rush now is to cash in on government incentives for “green” energy. Maybe the turbines will generate significant amounts of electricity, maybe they won’t, but that’s down the road. Right now the focus is on getting the deals signed, taking advantage of the grants and tax breaks before they expire.

In these efforts to bring wind power to the shoreline in northwest Ohio, impacts on birdlife are being essentially ignored and legitimate concerns are being pushed aside. The state’s Division of Wildlife had produced maps of “avian concern zones” for wind power many months ago, with a three-mile band along the lake shore being included among the areas of highest concern for potential bird kills, but these maps have received little attention. High-ranking officials of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, in recent statements, have managed to imply that no such maps exist. One local business owner was being courted by an energy company that wanted to put up a large turbine on his property. When he asked about potential harm to migrating birds, the company representative looked him in the eye: “Don’t worry,” he said. “Our turbines have been proven not to kill birds.”

That statement is nonsense, of course, but it’s shorthand for a common argument being made by the wind industry. The usual claim is that the typical wind turbine kills only a few birds per year. Consultants have pointed out that night-migrating birds usually fly more than 500 feet above the ground, high enough that they naturally avoid the blades of even the large turbines. And that is true. For the most part, nocturnal migrants will pass safely above wind farms. But it becomes a spurious argument when we start talking about stopover habitats, where birds are actively taking off and landing. Commercial jetliners may cruise at thirty thousand feet, but no one would use that as an excuse to put up a wind turbine at the end of an airport runway.

The stopover habitat in northwest Ohio is like a major airport for migrating birds, like the world’s busiest airports rolled into one – except that these vast numbers of birds are mostly landing or taking off in the dim light of dusk or pre-dawn, when visibility is at its poorest. A badly placed turbine adjacent to such a zone could be smashing birds out of the air by the thousands.

The same south wind that carries the tiny migrant is also turning a gigantic steel blade, and in a moment the two will collide with such shattering force as to splinter the bird’s skull and crush its lungs, stop its heartbeat in an instant, and hurl its broken and lifeless body to the ground.

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