After over 100 hours of surveying, Clay High School environmental science and biology teacher Dennis Slotnick says no evidence exists that the school’s wind turbine poses a threat to wildlife.
Slotnick said Ohio Department of Natural Resource protocols were used for the bird kill searches at the two Eisenhower turbines and the Clay turbine.
So far, only one red bat was found under the turbine last November. Slotnick says an independent searcher from the University of Toledo along with Clay students have found zero bird kills.
He said the study was done during the heaviest migration of the year, two-and-a-half miles from the Lake Erie shoreline.
“Of course, we would like to have several years of data to make a scientifically valid claim that no birds are struck by turbines, but so far it looks very safe for our avian friends,” said Slotnick.
Slotnick says searchers have doubled efforts to search for bird and bat carcasses since April 2013, the beginning of spring bird migration.
The search continues this summer with a searcher efficiency study and scavenger rate assessments to determine whether a fox, raccoon, or cat has carried off the bodies of dead birds.
“We scour in five meter quadrants at a distance of twice the blade diameter, spending over 110 hours so far this year under the three turbines,” Slotnick’s statement said.
Over 40 hours of student searcher time and over 107 hours of university internship hours been logged during the spring migration season. Slotnick and Caine Kolinski have been coordinating the research on a daily basis for eight weeks.
Slotnick says the national average for bird and bat mortality for wind turbines is two per year. He compares that to automobiles, which kill one million birds and one hundred million cats per year. Communication towers have killed from 82 to 3,199 birds per year, according to the Government Accountability Office of the National Audubon Society.
Slotnick notes that, according to the Mother Nature Network, “Nearly all bird kills occur on one outdated wind farm in Altamont, California where 2,000 to 5,000 birds die from old, fast, and low elevation scaffold tower turbines. If you exclude that data, the number of birds killed in the U.S. by wind turbines is practically zero.”
Radar study continues
Personnel from the U.S. Geological Service, Bowling Green State University, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Ohio State University, University of Toledo, and the Black Swamp Bird Observatory are participating in a radar study, which ultimately hopes to gain insight into whether the flight patterns would place the migrating flocks close to wind turbines that have been or soon will be erected near the lake shoreline.
Mark Shieldcastle, research director at the BSBO, is hopeful the radar study can continue for at least three years. He said data from when it began last fall is still being analyzed.
“We hope we can keep it going,” Shieldcastle said. “They did it through the spring and their looking for some money to keep it going through next fall.”
The BSBO researchers have been calling for additional studies by state and federal wildlife authorities of the migratory flight patterns along the lake before wind energy development is pursued. In particular, they’ve asked for a three-year moratorium on the placement of wind turbines within three miles of Lake Erie in Lucas, Ottawa, Sandusky, and Erie counties.
Shieldcastle said there has been research on the effect of turbines on migratory birds, but most of the studies have been conducted in areas where birds are in active migration and some portion of the flocks are flying well above turbine blades.
The BSBO hosted a forum last year, inviting researchers from academia, government, and conservation groups, to update their peers on projects they’ve undertaken in the Great Lake region. The BSBO met with Oregon School officials to discuss the issue last fall.
BSBO staffers have also been watching development at the Lake Erie Business Park, which has been promoting its site as well suited for wind and solar energy.