Global environmental challenges
Galapagos bird brains survive wind turbines
Three giant wind turbines are helping the Galapagos Islands in the Pacific Ocean towards a goal of eliminating use of fossil fuels by 2015 — and no birds have been killed in a six-month pilot scheme despite worries in many nations that big blades and bird brains don’t mix.
The Galapagos are home to mocking birds, finches, petrels, blue-footed boobies, doves, albatrosses and other exotic species many of which only live on the islands. Studies of Galapagos birds helped British 19th century naturalist Charles Darwin work out his theory of evolution.
“In six months of pilot operations there have been no bird kills,” said Melinda Kimble of the U.N. Foundation, a sponsor of the $10.8 million project led by power producers including American Electric Power and also backed by Ecuador’s government.
Power producers studied birds’ flight paths and nesting habits to decide the siting of the turbines and reduce risks of collisions.
“There seems a very broad support for the project, right down to school kids,” said Kimble after attending an official dedication ceremony late last month on San Cristobal, the island with the biggest human population.
The shift to renewable energy for the islands was spurred after the oil tanker Jessica ran aground with 160,000 gallons of diesel fuel in 2001 — some oil leaked but a catastrophe was narrowly averted thanks to favourable winds and tides.
Bird lovers say that turbines from California to Denmark often kill birds.
But are the turbines a threat — or is it just a case of siting them with care?