Can wind turbines harm wildlife?

A key challenge facing the wind industry is the potential for turbines to adversely affect wild animals both directly, via collisions, as well as indirectly due to noise pollution, habitat loss, and reduced survival or reproduction. Among the most impacted wildlife are birds and bats, which by eating destructive insects provide billions of dollars of economic benefits to the country’s agricultural sector each year.

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What materials are used to make wind turbines?

According to a report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory , wind turbines are predominantly made of steel (71-79% of total turbine mass), fiberglass, resin, or plastic (11-16%), iron or cast iron (5- 17%), copper (1%), and aluminum (0-2%). According to the 2017 Wind Technologies Market Report , many turbine components are domestically...

How many wind turbines are installed in the U.S. each year?

The number of turbines installed in the U.S. each year varies based on a number of factors, but on average 3,000 turbines have been built in the U.S. each year since 2005. Learn more: Wind Energy U.S. Wind Turbine Database

How much wind energy does it take to power an average home?

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration , the average U.S. home uses 867 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per month. The mean turbine capacity in the U.S. Wind Turbine Database (USWTDB) is 1.67 megawatts (MW). At a 33% capacity factor, that average turbine would generate over 402,000 kWh per month - enough for over 460 average U.S. homes. To...

How are wind turbine data collected?

The U.S. Wind Turbine Database project compiles wind turbine information from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s (LBNL) Wind Technologies Market Report dataset, the American Wind Energy Association’s (AWEA) wind turbine and project datasets, and the United States Geological Survey’s (USGS) legacy (...

How many turbines are contained in the U.S. Wind Turbine Database?

As of January 2019, the U.S. Wind Turbine Database (USWTDB) contains more than 58,000 turbines. These turbines have all been constructed since 1980 in approximately 1,500 wind power projects spanning at least 43 states (plus Puerto Rico and Guam).

Why is it important to know the locations of wind turbines?

No publicly-available, national database of wind turbines existed prior to the creation of the USGS Windfarm mapper, which was replaced with the U.S. Wind Turbine Database (USWTDB) in 2018. Knowing the location of individual turbines and their technical specifications creates new opportunities for research and improved siting and is important...

How are bats affected by wind turbines?

Dead bats are found beneath wind turbines all over the world. It’s estimated that tens to hundreds of thousands die at wind turbines each year in North America alone. Unfortunately, it’s not yet clear why this is happening. It’s possible that wind turbines interfere with seasonal migration and mating patterns in some species of bats. More than...
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Date published: June 1, 2018

Analysis of Surveys to Predict Eagle Interactions with Wind Energy Facilities

To minimize golden eagle fatalities in areas proposed for wind development, point count surveys are usually conducted to estimate bird use.

Date published: May 16, 2018

Mapping the Nation's Wind Turbines

There are more than 57,000 wind turbines across the United States, and a new tool allows you to get up close and personal with each one!

Date published: April 19, 2018

U.S. Geological Survey and U.S. Department of Energy Release Online Public Dataset and Viewer of U.S. Wind Turbine Locations and Characteristics

Today, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), in partnership with DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the American Wind Energy Association, released the United States Wind Turbine Database (USWTDB) and the USWTDB Viewer to access this new public dataset.

Date published: April 16, 2018

Flight Response of California Condors to Inform Risk from Wind Turbines

Large soaring birds rely on topographic and weather conditions also preferred by wind facility developers.

Date published: March 9, 2018

Raptor Interactions with Wind Energy: Case Studies from Around the World

Attempts to measure and mitigate the effects of wind turbines on wildlife have been an integral part of wind energy development.

Date published: May 3, 2017

Wind Turbines Affect Behavior of Desert Tortoise Predators

How a wind energy facility is designed can influence the behavior of animal predators and their prey, according to a recent study published in The Journal of Wildlife Management by researchers at the University of California, Davis, and the U.S. Geological Survey.

Date published: January 10, 2017

Advancing Wind Energy and Avoiding Wildlife Conflicts

Our Nation works to advance renewable energy and to avoid conflicts with and conserve wildlife.

Date published: September 28, 2016

Local Wind Energy Development Has Broad Consequences for Golden Eagles

Roughly over a quarter of the golden eagles killed at the Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area in Northern California from 2012-2014 were recent immigrants to the local population, according to research led by the U.S. Geological Survey. 

Date published: July 27, 2015

Breeding Bird Distribution Affected by Wind Turbines in the Dakotas

New wind energy facilities placed in prime wildlife habitat in North and South Dakota can influence the distribution of several species of grassland birds for years after construction, including species whose populations are in serious decline.

Date published: May 14, 2015

Preliminary Wind Energy Impacts Assessment Methodology Released

USGS has released a preliminary methodology to assess the population level impacts of onshore wind energy development on birds and bats. This wind energy impacts assessment methodology is the first of its kind, evaluating national to regional scale impacts of those bats and birds that breed in and migrate through the United States.

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Wind turbines at the Altamont Pass Wind Farm
September 8, 2016

Wind turbines at the Altamont Pass Wind Farm

The Altamont Pass Wind Far is located in northern California.

Wind turbines
April 8, 2016

Wind turbines

Attribution: Ecosystems
UV lights being tested as a deterrent for bats at wind turbines.
August 17, 2015

UV lights being tested as a deterrent for bats at wind turbines.

UV lights being tested as a deterrent for bats at wind turbines.

A bat that was killed by a wind turbine laying in the grass.
December 31, 2013

A bat that was killed by a wind turbine laying in the grass.

A bat that was killed by a wind turbine laying in the grass. 

Sandhill Cranes fly in close proximity to wind turbines near Horicon National Wildlife Refuge in east-central Wisconsin.
December 31, 2012

Sandhill Cranes Near Wind Turbines

Sandhill Cranes fly in close proximity to wind turbines near Horicon National Wildlife Refuge in east-central Wisconsin, but to date no crane mortality has been associated with turbines in this area.

A radio-tracked adult desert tortoise traverses a hill at the southern edge of the wind energy facility
October 31, 2012

A radio-tracked desert tortoise traverses at a wind energy facility

A radio-tracked adult desert tortoise traverses a hill at the southern edge of the wind energy facility near Palm Springs, California. 

How a wind energy facility is designed can influence the behavior of animal predators and their prey, according to a recent study published in The

...
A radio-tracked adult desert tortoise basks in the sun among the wind turbines at a wind energy facility
October 31, 2012

A radio-tracked tortoise basks in the sun among the wind turbines

A radio-tracked adult desert tortoise basks in the sun among the wind turbines at a wind energy facility near Palm Springs, California. 

How a wind energy facility is designed can influence the behavior of animal predators and their prey, according to a recent study published in The

...
Image: Bats and Wind Energy

Bats and Wind Energy

USGS biologist Paul Cryan. Biologists hope to learn more about the scale and causes of bat fatalities at wind turbines by searching for carcasses of bats beneath turbines and carefully documenting the conditions under which they are found.

Attribution: Ecosystems
Image: Wind Turbines

Wind Turbines

Wind turbines at certain sites in North America each cause dozens of bat fatalities per year.

Attribution: Energy and Minerals
Image: Wind Turbine Blade

Wind Turbine Blade

This photo shows one of the three 135-ft blades of a turbine before installation. Although the blades of wind turbines appear to move quite slowly to the human eye, blade tips often move at speeds faster than 100 mph.

Attribution: Energy and Minerals
Bat approaching wind turbine GIF 2

Bat approaching wind turbine GIF 2

This GIF uses thermal imagery to show a bat approaching a wind turbine tower.