Nothing left to lose


Renewable energy sources may not belch carbon dioxide or other nasty gasses into the atmosphere, but that doesn't mean they're impact-free. Solar power, if done on the scale necessary to replace coal, would take up huge swaths of desert land. Wind turbines kill birds and bats and, to some people's eyes, just aren't very pretty. Geothermal development carries with it the risk of drilling into hell. All will require the construction of a lot of new transmission lines, some of which may have to go through some sensitive -- and scenic -- places.

That's what makes this map of EPA-listed contaminated sites with high wind-energy potential so interesting. The places on the map are pretty messed up already, so it's hard to imagine that anyone would have a problem with re-developing them as wind farms. And many of the places, as industrial sites, already have transmission lines going to them.

If you go to the EPA website, you'll find data that you can plug into Google Earth to make maps of contaminated sites with potential for other types of renewable energy-development. These contaminated sites won't provide all the energy we need to wean ourselves off fossil fuels. But developing them for renewable energy could be an uncontroversial -- and redemptive -- way to start.

Wind power don't kill bats and birds, old information.
Joe Weatherby
Joe Weatherby
Oct 06, 2008 08:46 PM
I enjoyed most of your comments regarding placing wind farms on contaminated sites. Only one issue with your comment. Please update your knowledge on wind farms. The birds and bats that are harmed by MODERN wind turbines, each of which can generate 1.5 - 4 MW of power, is of no consequence. There has been some issues in past years from early wind turbines using lattice frames (where birds liked to roost), huge concentrations of turbines, and much smaller faster moving blades.

Modern turbines, are a totally different story. And, well quite frankly, if the very minute risk of killing a bird concerns you, then you may want to start doing in all the house cats in this country, stop driving, as both cars adn cats are thousands of times more detrimental to the bird population than all the wind turbines we could possibly erect.

The bird and bat kill argument sounds like someone I heard promoting nuclear power in Idaho, which I doubt your are wanting to do. One of Don Gillispie's favorite lines is "windmills slaughter bats and birds". I am quite sure you don't want to be grouped with the likes of that guy.

Thanks for your article, I agree with the rest of it, keep up the good work.
Even new wind turbines are major threat to birds & bats
SeEtta Moss
SeEtta Moss
Oct 06, 2008 10:51 PM
I am an passionate conservationist, serving as conservation chair of my local Audubon chapter and the state board. I am also a proponent of wind power, subject to proper siting.

The reality is that even modern wind turbines are a significant threat to both birds and bats though in different ways. One of the major impacts is on habitat for grassland birds, something that unfortunately a number of conservation groups seem to be unaware of. Specifically, grassland birds, the group of birds that has suffered the most declines due to conversion of grassland to farms, have evolved to avoid tall objects like wind turbines and transmission line poles (this is where raptors perch to predate on them). So these birds will avoid nesting in and around areas with both wind turbines and transmission lines (due to poles). Even though newer turbines have been designed to reduce raptor perching and nesting, you can't just hang out a sign telling the birds that it's ok to nest there.

Read the facts from well respected conservation groups including the following: American Bird Conservancy at; /energyproduction/wind.html; documented wind turbine studies at; Houston Audubon Society at[…]/Home.htm; American Society of Mammologists at[…]/WindEnergyResolution.pdf; Bats and Wind Energy Cooperative at; National Audubon Society testimony to Congress (that supports wind energy but documents impacts on wildlife, the need for federal guidelines and more research on impacts on species) at These are only some of the dozens of organizations and studies that I could have cited.

That last document from National Audubon Society illustrates that though many of us support wind energy, it needs to be regulated with stringent siting requirements. Wind energy development can, and should, be done in a responsible manner.
Rob's idea about previously contaminated sites
SeEtta Moss
SeEtta Moss
Oct 06, 2008 11:00 PM
Sorry I didn't respond to your idea in my lengthy reply about the real impacts on birds and bats. You have proposed an interesting idea that may provide some more appropriate sites for renewable energy development. Though birds and other wildlife often use sites too contaminated for human habitation (ie, Rocky Mtn Arsenal in Denver), I believe your idea is still worth serious consideration.