Wyoming Wind Turbines and Bugs: An Unlikely Pairing
Wind turbines are a source of frustration for many Wyomingites, as are insects.
The former can potentially furnish the state with renewable energy, though that’s up for debate with certain senators, and the latter, though pesky, are responsible for a host of environmental benefits.
A former University of Wyoming student found that insects are big fans of the turbines. At least, the white ones–not so much other colors. A few summers ago, Madison Crawford conducted tests to see the effect that different-colored wind turbines had on insect attraction.
The result: bugs like the white and lighter-colored turbines, thus resulting in a lot of dead bugs accumulating on turbine blades (decreasing their efficiency) and more dead birds around turbines that were in search of lunch.
Bugs are essential as “they maintain healthy soil, recycle nutrients, pollinate flowers and crops, and control pests” (World Wildlife Magazine).
Wind energy, though aesthetically unappealing, is cheaper. The Montana Public Service Commission compiled cost-comparing research: “Nationally, financial analyst firm Lazard found in December 2016 unsubsidized wind projects costing between $32 and $62 per megawatt-hour while coal cost between $57 and $148 per megawatt-hour” (Montana Environmental Information Center).
Her research was recently published in “The Western North American Naturalist,” a peer-reviewed journal focusing on environmental issues.
“Insects do not come to mind when people think of wind turbines, but they should. Insect debris on turbine blades can reduce the power produced by 50 percent when wind speeds exceed 26 mph. If we can reduce insects at wind facilities, more energy may be produced, and fewer birds may be around turbines. That is a potential positive result worth testing,” said Lusha Tronstad, lead invertebrate zoologist with UW’s Wyoming Natural Diversity Database and co-author of Crawford’s publication.
Painting them would help the bugs, and maybe it would help them be less of an eyesore.