Mass Bird Kill at Laurel Mountain Wind Farm Highlights Wind Energy Impact

Wind turbines are considered a green energy source but it seems oversights are creating a decidedly negative environmental outcome. More than 500 bird deaths occurred in a single incident at the AES Laurel Mountain wind farm near Elkins, West Virginia, USA. It is believed this was caused by lights being left on at a power substation in low visibility conditions.

Often what comes to mind regarding wildlife fatalities and wind farms is collisions with turbines. However, the bird deaths in this incident were a result of repeated collisions with the substation and exhaustion due to the birds becoming confused by the artificial light source. Birds that navigate during the night rely on the little available light to find the horizon and know which way is up or down.

This isn’t the first incident where lights being left on at wind farms has resulted in large numbers of birds and bat deaths. In fact this will be the third bird kill involving lights being left on at wind farms in West Virginia alone. Just a week earlier 59 birds and 2 bats were killed at NedPower’s Mount Storm wind farm where a wind turbine was reported to have lighting left on overnight.

Beech Ridge Wind Energy Project in Greenbrier County, has not experienced large mortality events, likely because it is currently prohibited by a court order from operating during nighttime between April 1 and November 15. Environmental advocates suggest that mandatory federal standards need to be implemented as opposed to the voluntary guidelines currently being discussed.

More than half of the birds killed were Blackpoll Warblers with other species including Connecticut Warblers, Yellow-billed Cuckoos, Sora, and Virginia rail. AES is forming a final report to submit to DNR and US Fish and Wildlife regarding the incident.


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