The Atlantic Migratory Bird Flyway

Wind turbines in western New York. Property access courtesy of Davis Valley Farm, LLC.


Alright, so up to this point I have cited all the advantages of wind turbines. Unfortunately, their downside is that they kill 140,000 to 328,00 birds in North America, annually. Both the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Audubon Society support the growing use of wind turbines, provided they are properly sited—the one known, effective means of minimizing wind turbine bird strikes. The major reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is paramount for our biosphere. To ignore the threat of climate change would not only threaten far more birds over time, but most of the current flora and fauna.

We now know that birds migrate along  the same flyways each season. The Atlantic flyway, passing through New York,  extends from the bottom of South America to the Canadian Tundra. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service  recommends that all new wind developments consider:  avoiding bird migration routes, places where raptors’ prey congregates, and water-filled landscapes that would encourage birds to flock, such as wetlands. These are guidelines only, however.

There is current testing of technical approaches, including: using purple turbine blades (white attracts insects which then attract birds), bird averse lighting systems, and GPS/radar the latter designed to detect flocks in time to shut down the turbines. However, the effectiveness of these approaches are not clear at this time.

This is all I have to say about wind turbines. I still have to get one more good panorama when  I have the best evening sky. I will place a collection of my wind turbine photographs in my online gallery soon. I will let you know when I do.

Please contact me with any questions or comments about our growing use of renewable energy.


Climate Change and Health

As regular readers of this blog know, I have presented aesthetic, environmental photographs to raise people’s awareness of the threats to our environment posed by global climate change. During the past few years I have studied the likely effects of climate change on public health. So, I’m pleased to announce that I have been invited to take part on a panel this fall at the Association for Applied & Clinical Sociology to discuss the relationship between climate change and health, along with the policy implications for reducing climate change’s threat.

I’ll have more to say on this over the coming weeks. In the meantime, you can find a climate overview in NOAA’s 2018 Global Climate Report.

Misty Wind Turbines

Fog and mist often add to a photograph, giving it a softer, aesthetic look. Since fog and mist are generally a dawn phenomenon (water vapor condenses when temperature and dew point are within two or three degrees of each other) I got these shots early in the season since I live over an hour away from the field (I only had to get up at 4:30 to get these shots).

Since there is usually no wind associated with fog or mist, wind turbines are not likely to rotate, since they need at least a 4 MPH breeze. I was fortunate to have a view of some turbines on higher ground (where there was some wind) overlooking background mist on lower ground.

Aesthetic Wind Turbines

On this hot July Fourth here are some unique views of wind turbines. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” (an old social constructionist saying). Wouldn’t one of these look great on your wall?

I got lucky with the crows

Zoomed turbine

Looking up

Threesome power

Surrealistic wind turbine

Wind Turbines: One Leg of Renewable Energy

Wind turbines in western New York; property access courtesy of Davis Valley Farm, LLC

This past winter I began thinking about what might be an interesting local photographic project. Then, while on a trip through the countryside, I rediscovered wind turbines that I saw along the hilltops. So, I began exploring some of these fields from the surrounding roads. I will admit that my bias is towards renewable energy. I have no financial ties to any energy company (except for my monthly utility and gasoline bills). Rather, my bias results from data. Fossil fuels are not only warming the planet, but they will run out at current consumption levels over the next 50 to 100 years. The geological, climatic, and biological data (presented earlier on this website) all point to the critical importance of finding alternate energy sources.

Beginning in March I began photographing the turbines under different weather and lighting conditions and eventually got access to photograph some of the turbines up close. Contrary to what you might have heard, they

Multiple exposures create the blade effects

only make only a soft whirring sound. To my ear, it is almost as pleasant as listening to the surf. There are times, however, when some become noisy, producing whistling or other noxious sounds. This is due to rough surfaces developing on the leading edges of the blades from wear and tear, or small blade holes caused by lightning strikes. However, power companies replace the blades once noise becomes a nuisance. The turbines in this field (almost 100 of them) are certainly tall, standing 280 feet to the hubs with each blade extending out to 120 feet. And they are even taller in the west, some going 500 feet to the hub!

While I will grant you that wind turbines are not as aesthetic as trees and

flowering plants, they do present a majestic look over the landscape. Although many communities have rejected these (particularly when proposed for

Quiet, Clean & Renewable

offshore), they have a small footprint and have far more grace than traditional power plants. They take little time to erect and when finished the land is not compromised so crops or cattle can be farmed. Some folks almost have them in their back yards.

Wind turbines are not the total solution to our energy needs. There are several forms of renewable energy besides wind: solar, hydroelectric, biomass, hydrogen and fuel cells, geothermal, and tidal. Collectively, these sources will diversity our energy grid as the cost of these technologies decrease. This would have the added advantage of minimizing the risk of power plant shutdowns due to damage or maintenance.

I will present more photos and comments about wind turbines in future posts. I will add the best photos to my online gallery later and I anticipate a printed photo exhibition in the more distant future.

Do let me know your thoughts, positive or negative, on renewable energies.

You can learn more about wind turbines, including engineering information and references, from Wikipedia.