Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Conference considers ‘wind power revolution’

Wind turbines may be good for generating power but they can be tough on birds and people who live near them.

As many as 40,000 birds annually are killed by flying too close to wind turbines, said Ray Young, an attorney and law professor at the University of British Columbia. Young spoke at the concluding day of the Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute’s 17th annual conference at DU on March 7. By contrast, he pointed out, 100 million birds are killed every year by cats.

Of concern as well, Young said Friday at a conference breakout session on the “wind power revolution” is what physicians are called “wind turbine syndrome,” a medical condition that apparently afflicts people who live near wind turbines. Symptoms include sleep deprivation, headache, loss of concentration and Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears.

Additionally, there is anxiety over blades breaking and flying off, though Young said such accidents are rare.

Not all wind turbines are giant bird crushers, said Julian Conrad Juergensmeyer, professor at Georgia State University. Some are small scale, personal wind generators that cost about $10,000 and are used by homeowners.

“With these personal generators, all of a sudden — at least from a technological point of view — you could have all the electricity you need just from your wind generator,” Juergensmeyer said.

“Wind power has a history that goes beyond Rembrandt,” noted Ronald Rosenberg, professor and associate dean at the William and Mary Marshall-Wythe School Law of Law. They provide the security of a domestic energy source, economic gains for rural communities and environmental benefits.

Detractors say wind turbines are noisy, can hurl melting ice and aren’t aesthetically attractive.

Regardless, the U.S. Department of Energy is seeking to use wind power to generate 6 percent of America’s electricity by 2020. Currently, said Rosenberg, wind power generates just over 1 percent.

Read about the conference keynote speech.
Read about green solutions and an expert’s opinion on how they create unforeseen problems.

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