We know they're bad for birds and bats, but is a whale grounding near the U.K. pointing to a role in whale deaths too? Are vibrations from offshore wind turbine farms killing whales?
Between January 9 and February 4 this year, 29 sperm whales got stranded and died on English, German and Dutch beaches. Environmentalists and the news media offered multiple explanations – except the most obvious and likely one: offshore wind farms.
Indeed, that area has the world’s biggest concentration of offshore wind turbines, and there is ample evidence that their acoustic pollution can interfere with whale communication and navigation.
|Painting the blame on the wrong energy source?|
Indeed, “researchers at the University of St. Andrews have found that the noise made by offshore wind farms can interfere with a whale’s sonar, and can in tragic cases see them driven onto beaches where they often die,” a UK Daily Mail article observed.
It is certainly possible that permanent damage to the cetaceans’ middle and inner ears, and thus to their built-in sonar, can result from large air guns used during seismic surveys and from violent bursts of noise associated with pilings being rammed into the rock bed. Wind promoters themselves admit that their pile-driving can be heard up to 50 miles (80 kilometers) underwater, and can be harmful to whales that happen to be nearby. But unless these injuries cause external bleeding, they are very difficult to detect.
|Wind farm locations of the North Sea|
On land, although the wind industry continues to deny any culpability, evidence is mounting that low frequency and particularly infrasound waves emitted by wind turbines have significant adverse effects on local residents, including sleep deprivation, headaches, tachycardia (abnormally rapid heart rates) and a dozen other ailments. Underwater, a milieu where sound waves travel much farther, it would be irresponsible and unscientific to argue that whales are not affected by operating wind turbines, all the more because cetaceans use their sonar to “see” what’s around them
Yet another reason to think twice about large wind farms off the mouth of the Chesapeake. Those dead whales can be just awful smelly, and hard to dispose of.