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Guidance Needed For Wind Power

May 7, 2007 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 85, Issue 19

Credit: GE Wind Energy
Credit: GE Wind Energy

More electricity is being generated from wind in the U.S., but government guidance to help the public and developers evaluate and plan wind-energy projects is inadequate, concludes a new report by the National Research Council. The report recommends an evaluation system be created to provide consistent guidelines for various U.S. locations, and it attempts to lay out a detailed framework to provide such information. The NRC report looked at environmental impacts of wind energy and found, for example, that between 20,000 and 37,000 birds were killed by turbines in 2003. All but 9,000 were in California, which has smaller and older wind farms located in areas popular with birds. Most of the deaths were migratory songbirds, but bats and raptors were also killed. The impact on bat and bird populations is unclear, the report says, and generally, it indicated a lack of systematic studies on the ecological impacts of wind turbines. Overall, the report notes, wind capacity in the U.S. has quadrupled since 2000, and the nation has the capacity to generate 11,603 MW from wind, which is almost 20% of the world's total wind power but less than 1% of U.S. electricity. The report estimates that, by 2020, 2-7% of the nation's electricity would come from wind, cutting future carbon dioxide emissions by roughly 4.5%. The report can be found at


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