A shift to renewable energy sources may slow environmental impacts caused by the burning of fossil fuels. Wind, solar, and biomass energy sources all pose some degree of risk to birds.
- In Vermont, wind farm construction may alter or eliminate habitat for bird species (e.g., Bicknell’s Thrush).
- Wind farms may also pose a more immediate hazard to migratory birds via collisions with turbines.
- Strategies to minimize impacts:
- Site wind turbines in already disturbed habitats
- Deactivate wind turbines during migration
- Minimize construction during the breeding season.
- USFWS has outlined many more practical steps that developers can take to lessen negative impacts of wind development on birds and other wildlife.
Solar may pose relatively few challenges for breeding birds.
- Large utility-scale projects will destroy breeding bird habitat unless plants are sited in already-impacted habitats. Impacts are likely greatest for grassland and shrubland bird species.
- Some evidence suggests that birds may, on occasion, strike mirrored solar panels.
- Small-scale solar panels on existing structures, such as rooftops, would likely have little impact on Vermont’s breeding birds.
Biomass energy production in Vermont
- Currently comes in the form of burning wood for heat.
- Few grasses are currently used
- Biofuels such as switchgrass, especially in combination with wood, may be viable sources of energy in the future.
- Switchgrass flourishes on marginal farmland and may prove useful in creating habitat for grassland birds in existing, unused agricultural areas.