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Published: Wednesday, 7/19/2006

Riding the wind

THE pursuit of clean, renewable energy sources would seem to be an endeavor without controversy - especially among environmentalists. But even a worthy project like wind turbines that produce "green" power is not free of vexing problems.

Wildlife advocates, generally fans of wind energy, have an understandable concern about an alternative energy source that relies on giant windmills with massive fiberglass blades. The wind turbines have been around long enough to demonstrate their downside: birds have been killed flying into them.

The issue has been raised at Bowling Green State University's Firelands campus in Huron, Ohio. BGSU wants to erect one or two wind turbines at the edge of the campus but will first use a $1 million federal grant to research the project's impact on wildlife.

That makes sense considering the location. The 216-acre campus is close to a western section of the Lake Erie shoreline that is in the midst of one of North America's biggest migratory bird flyways.

U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, while applauding the promise of wind power, announced the grant to study the wind-wildlife issues in depth at BGSU's satellite campus.

In some parts of the country operations on so-called "wind farms" have been temporarily halted because of extensive bird kill, so site selection is obviously key to avoid disrupting important bird migration routes or compromising other wildlife considerations.

Ms. Kaptur says if the BGSU Firelands project is done right, Lake Erie could become the "Saudi Arabia of wind" power, but achieving a balance with surrounding environment is also essential. "We don't want to make Cuisinarts on the Great Lakes. We don't want to destroy the [bald] eagles we've worked so hard to bring back," she said.

Certainly we agree, though we reaffirm our strong support for alternative energy sources. Raccoons and squirrels dart in front of cars all the time, but we don't order motor vehicles off the road while we do a body count.

Wind farms are successfully generating electricity, including at the Wood County landfill west of Bowling Green, where four of the turbines are operational and supplying power to BG and other partner communities.

BGSU Firelands wants to follow suit. Barring any serious reservations with researchers, the school hopes its one-megawatt wind turbine or turbines will soon be producing electricity - not controversy.

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