Guidelines for wind farms

The federal government should devise national policies to maximize the benefits of wind farms while lessening their environmental impact, concludes a report from the National Research Council. Such policies would provide much-needed guidance for regional and local governments planning wind-energy projects, the May 3 report says.

Wind energy provided less than 1 percent of the United States’ electricity last year, but the Department of Energy projects that wind’s contribution will rise to 2 to 7 percent over the next 15 years.

Congress asked the committee that produced the report to evaluate the environmental effects, both good and bad, of wind turbines. On the plus side, the report estimates that wind energy could offset about 4.5 percent of U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide from electricity generation by 2020.

But, the committee notes concern that rapid expansion of wind farms could harm bird and bat populations. It calls for more research, such as tracking animal numbers and migration corridors, to clarify the risks.

The report also recommends that developers conduct wildlife-impact studies before constructing new wind farms.

Aimee Cunningham is the biomedical writer. She has a master’s degree in science journalism from New York University.

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