When we went to Cottonwood Canyon for stargazing, we noticed that along the way, there were plenty of windmills. The use of a windmill and many windmills makes sense as they are environmentally friendly and the landscape in some areas of the Pacific Northwest make their use efficient. We fully support their use.
Recently, at night, we went to the viewpoint on OR-97, which is on the way to Cottonwood Canyon State Park in Central Oregon around 4-5 miles before turning into the park, and saw that the windmills were blinking red. The area is in a dark zone, being a far ways away from cities and lights, so is an amazing place to go stargazing! But the windmills did pose an interesting question.
It is great that the power companies are using environmentally friendly, but the way that these windmills are being deployed is a bit unfriendly to light pollution. The reason that these red lights are positioned and timed to blink when they are is because of aircraft. The red lights function as a warning to aircraft to not come too close as the red lights mean danger.
However, these lights do pose a threat to wildlife and observers in the area. Scientists have noted that there are risks to wildlife such as bats, which believe this light source lures bats into the path of the blades, which spin at speeds of up to 170mph. This does cause issues when migrating.
There is some good news, which is that there are systems being developed that can allow the lights be to be controlled by radar. This solution isn’t perfect, but as the system improves, there are many benefits worth investing in. Using a radar system would make sure that animals in the surrounding environment stays safe, while preserving the safety of the red lights for planes. Plus, it would help minimize light pollution, which can bring in tourism. The windmill is a great and environmentally friendly system, but it can always be made better!