Much of the Illinois landscape can be flat and dull, with stretches of nothing but corn for miles—until you reach the wind farms. Then there are hundreds of towering wind turbines scattered through the corn fields.

As it turns out, Illinois is leading the United States in wind energy investment.

According to American Wind Energy Association reports, the state built 404 wind turbines last year. These turbines reduced the state’s carbon dioxide output by 4.7 million metric tons and generated millions of dollars.

Yet some people claim these wind farms are doing more harm than good.

Residents of DeKalb County, where many of the turbines are located, complain that “shadow flicker” from the blades causes headaches and nausea. Some also claim the noise keeps them up at night. The residents went as far as to file a lawsuit in 2010.

Despite complaints from some residents, Illinois is preparing to start phase one of the Green River Wind Farm project, headed my Mainstream Renewable Power. The project is going to build 90 new turbines in northern Illinois. The project will supply 109,000 homes with green energy and could prevent up to 400,000 tons of carbon dioxide a year.

But as with all major projects, there will be casualties. Hundreds of homes will be destroyed.

These homes don’t belong to people but to the creatures that call northern Illinois home. Among these are the hogsnake, the oriental box turtle and the regal fritillary butterfly; all three are considered to be threatened in Illinois.

The first and most obvious issue is that animals will be killed during the building process and that their habitat will be destroyed. Less obvious is the effects of the roads leading to the turbines. These roads will seem like the perfect place to bask in the sun to the box turtles and hogsnakes.

The “shadow flicker” that many human residents complained about also poses a threat to the animals because it could mimic the movements of aerial predators. If the “shadow flicker” does confuse them, it will impede mating and eating behaviours.

Birds and bats can also fall victim to the blades of the turbines.

Mainstream Renewable Power has acknowledged concerns regarding the threatened species and say they are implementing studies and strategies to protect the threatened species.

Mainstream Renewable Power is dedicated to the environment,  according to their website, which indicates they want “to have a positive impact on the environment and on the sustainability of human activity.” And that they “are committed to ensuring that environmental protection and awareness are at the forefront of all our activities.”

This predicament reminds us that all things come with a cost and leaves us to wonder: what price are we willing to pay for green energy?

by Laurel Purves

Republished with permission from Living Green Magazine