Bats, birds and blades: wind turbines and biodiversity

All the conventional ‘green’ scenarios for reducing carbon emissions include a dramatic upscaling in renewable power generated by wind, both on and offshore. However, the environmental impacts of this large-scale industrial deployment – both of turbines and power lines, frequently in relatively natural areas – are often neglected by climate campaigners. Here two ‘planetary boundaries’ conflict: those of biodiversity and climate change.

That some wind farms kill worrying numbers of birds, especially large birds like raptors, is undeniable – yet the wind industry does its best to downplay the impacts. As the American Wind Energy Association puts it:

Wind power is far less harmful to birds than the fossil fuels it displaces. Incidental losses of individual birds at turbine sites will always be an extremely small fraction of bird deaths caused by human activities.

Both these statements may be technically true, but they do not mean that additional bird kills by increasing areas of wind farms are not a concern – they mean that new turbines are yet another human pressure on bird species which are already a matter for serious conservation concern. This is particularly the case as more power lines will be needed to connect disparate wind farms in upland or remote areas: in this sense the decentralised energy generation so beloved of greens is worse for conservation then centralised generation in big power plants, whose transmission infrastructure by and large already exists.

Here is an interview with the Norwegian ornithologist Alv Ottar Folkestad, who is concerned with the survival of white-tailed eagles in coastal areas of Norway:

…what to me is a really scaring prospective [sic] is the way wind power development has been introduced in this country. The first wind power plant of significant size in Norway, on Smøla, is localized into the most spectacular performance of nesting concentration of White-tailed Eagles ever known. There are plans for making wind power into huge dimensions, and most of them localized in the most pristine coastal landscape of the most important areas of the White-tailed Eagle. During the last five and a half years, the wind power plant on Smøla has been killing 40 white-tailed eagles, 27 of them adult or sub adult birds, and 11 of them during 2010. There are no mitigating measures taken so far, and hardly any to think of, and there is no indication of adaptation among the eagles to such constructions.

Similar stories are coming from Spain, where large-scale onshore wind development in recent years has reportedly hit some raptor populations hard.

'Jorge', the last great bustard in Cadiz region, killed by turbines or power lines

In Greece, this extraordinary video shows an actual collision when a griffon vulture is hit by a spinning turbine blade.

Perhaps the best-studied wind farm in the world is at California’s Altamont Pass, where dozens of protected species from golden eagles to burrowing owls are killed each year, making the area a significant population sink for these birds. Expert Shawn Smallwood has conducted surveys in the area, and estimates that 70-80 golden eagles are killed each year by turbine blades, out of a total Californian population of 3000-5000 eagles. As he explains on this video:

We usually found the bird carcasses nearby the turbines. Usually they were found dismembered. A lot of times the head was knocked off, or a wing, or the bird was cut in half length-wise, or across the middle.

Remediation measures are now underway, removing those turbines located in areas most frequented by raptors. But how compatible is wind energy with bird conservation on a wider scale? I put that question to Clive Hambler, a conservation biologist at Oxford University’s Department of Zoology. This is his answer in full:

I think wind farms are potentially the biggest disaster for birds of prey since the days of persecution by gamekeepers, and I think wind farms are one of the biggest threats to European and North American bats since large scale deforestation. The impacts are already becoming serious for white-tailed eagles in Europe, as is abundantly clear in Norway.  A wind farm – built despite opposition from ornithologists – has decimated an important population, killing 40 white-tailed eagles in about 5 years and 11 of them in 2010.  The last great bustard in the Spanish province of Cadiz was killed by a wind development.  In my experience, some “greens” are in complete denial of these impacts, or hopefully imagine that these bats and birds can take big losses: they can’t because they breed very slowly.

Birds of prey often soar where wind farms are best-sited, and may be attracted to their deaths by the vegetation and prey around the turbines.  A similar deadly ecological trap has been proposed for bats, with some species attracted by insect prey or noise around the turbines.

There are very serious suggestions of a cover-up of the scale of the problem, by some operatives hiding the corpses of birds, but you only have to look at the Save the Eagles website to see the evidence accumulating despite scavengers or deception.

To my mind one of the worst problems is that wind farms will prevent the recovery of birds of prey, other threatened birds, and bats – denying them great swathes of the European and North American continent where they once dwelt.  This flies in the face of the legally binding Convention on Biological Diversity, which encourages restoration of habitat and species whenever practicable.  It makes a nonsense of the idea that wind is ‘sustainable’ energy – except in that it sustains and renews ecological damage.

Strong stuff. And as Hambler – who is equally critical of proposals for tidal barrages to harvest marine energy at the expense of mudflats, fish and seabirds – says, bats are just as much under threat as raptors. Earlier this year researchers writing in Science journal (sub req’d) suggested that large-scale wind development in the US Mid-Atlantic Highlands could join ‘white nose syndrome’ as a major killer of bats, potentially helping spur their extinction from wide areas of the country.

So where does all this leave us? The RSPB in the UK has been trying to carve out a sensible position amongst the conflicting objectives of supporting renewable energy whilst also protecting birds. It states:

…the RSPB supports a significant growth in offshore and onshore wind power generation in the UK.

We believe that this growth can be achieved in harmony with, rather than at the expense of, the natural environment. We will therefore continue to require that wind farms are sited, designed and managed so that there are no significant adverse impacts on important bird populations or their habitats.

Increasingly this does mean opposing windfarms sited in inappropriate areas, and encouraging developers to take note of which regions should be out of bounds entirely. As always there will be conflicts between the objectives of reducing emissions, protecting nature, and mitigating human impact on the land. Those whose enthusiasm for wind seems to know no bounds should duly take note.

32 comments

  1. Bishop Hill says:

    The RSPB supported the construction of a windfarm near where I live, ignoring the importance of the area for geese. We were told at the planning meeting that no resident bird species would be affected, neatly avoiding the fact that the geese are migrants.

    I think this is just the PR people talking. The RSPB is making too much money from selling wind power to care much about birds.

  2. Mark Duchamp says:

    I looked up http://fakecharities.org/2009/01/charity-207076/
    and found this:

    “In 2010 RSPB reported received a staggering £22.6 million in public money”

    That’s 18.5% of their revenue, almost double the threshold of 10% which classifies an NGO as “fake charity” according to that webpage.

    If true, this would confirm our long-held suspicions. Why wouldn’t the RSPB, for instance, publicise the killing by windfarms of over 40 sea eagles at a single windfarm in Norway (1) and 50 in Germany, plus over 140 red kites, etc. (2) ?

    Why the cover-up? And why doesn’t the RSPB oppose Brussel’s policy of permitting windfarms within Important Bird Areas and Special Protection Areas?

    Mark

    (1) – http://europeanraptors.org/interviews/interview_white_tailed_eagle_norway_alv_ottar_folkestad.html

    (2) – http://www.iberica2000.org/documents/eolica/BIRD_MORTALITY/Mortality_statistics_Germany.xls

  3. Paul says:

    How about this?

    http://image.made-in-china.com/2f0j00tByasKTEHPoj/Table-Fan.jpg

    This is a picture of a table fan. The rapidly spinning blades prevent small children from having their fingers chopped off, and would also probably save the lives of any errant budgerigars that might be perhaps fluttering heedlessly around your living room.

    Enclosing the blades of a wind turbine would add weight, cost and complexity, while having a marginal effect upon performance, still it’s a simple enough feat of engineering.

    This wouldn’t address the issue of powerlines, but it’s a way forward, no?

    • cedarhill says:

      Great Idea. We can get Rube Goldberg to design and build a “safety bird erector deflector array” for each turbine. Depends on the birds you want to save. If wrens, then use wire mesh, if pterodactyl steel rebar used in construction. Even better, just put the turbine inside a building without windows.

      Not to worry about blocking the wind the turbine uses to produce electricity. All you need do it to hire the unemployed to go and open and close the doors 24/7. That’s a permanent “Green Job”. Given the amount of electricity these fiascos produce, you could have the door openers running on a large hamster wheel connected to a pulley to the turbine which is connected to …., well, you get the picture.

    • Paul says:

      You’re right. I apologise. Clearly the concept of enclosing the blades involves insurmountable engineering challenges. Optimising such an enclosure’s effect si as to minimise the inevitable reduction in the turbine’s efficiency would be such a monumental task that even today’s supercomputers would stumble.

    • Ben of Houston says:

      Actually, no. The problem is mostly weight. Due to the square-cube principle, doubling the size of a thing quadruples its strength and octuples it’s weight. As a table fan is about 100 times smaller than a generation windmill, you will have something 10,000 times stronger and a million times heavier. That will not be able to be mounted on the windmill itself, but will need to be a large enclosing structure. The resulting structure would increase the cost of the windmill by a factor of 2-3 and increase maintenance costs exponentially. It will also act as a wind-break and reduce the already-pathetic efficiency of these windmills to single-digit percentage of nameplate production.

      In the best case scenario, windmills can barely hope to create energy above the amount needed to produce, maintain, and back-up them. Adding a ludicrous protective structure would turn that “barely hope” into “never under any circumstances”.

    • Ron Greer says:

      There’s an easier solution: don’t build windfarms, they don’t produce worthwhile and dependable amounts of power and they don’t reduce CO2.
      Check the UK power output on the Neta website.

  4. Phillip Bratby says:

    I have had much correspondence with the RSPB. There is no doubt that they are a money-making machine and will continue to support the climate change scam and wind farms in “appropriate” locations, as long as they are making big money. I (and many of my friends) was a member of the RSPB until I saw how they were prepared to promote bird-mashing, bat-killing, mammal-scaring wind turbines for the money.

  5. John Shade says:

    A lot of damage – to landscapes, to birds, to people living nearby, to the bank balances of all who subsidise them, and of course to the stability and reliability of electricity generation and transmission systems.

    For what reason? All but universally discredited computer models programmed to give CO2 a role in climate which neither the history nor the recent behaviour of climate supports. That by itself would have consigned these rigged models back to the drawing board, if not to the dustbin. But they were exploited to great effect by politically ambitious groups which created the IPCC, a source of moral, political, and intellectual damage on a truly astonishing scale. The birds are the least of it.

  6. Philip says:

    Ha, how ironic that Mark Lynas who was sent from heaven to absolve the sins of the carbon worshippers and climate destroyers is now telling us that measures he has always supported, such as wind farms, are now a thing of evil.
    I shall pray for you Mark and hope that one day in the not to distant future you might repent and agree that the idea of Man’s ability to change the weather is nothing more than latter day devil worship.

  7. lapogus says:

    Agree with Bishop Hill; the RSPB, despite pressure from local ornithologists and the Tayside Raptor Group refused to object to two wind farms (Griffin & Calliachar) in Highland Perthshire, which will directly impact on the habitat of hen harriers and golden eagles (and are also on the migration routes of geese). SNH’s also refused to object to the farms. At the time of the public inquiry, there was a rumour that SNH had received a letter from their counterparts in Norway which detailed very high sea eagle mortality rates in the vicinity of one of their wind farms. But if it did exist it never saw the light of day, and SNH refused to change their position. These raptors are red-list / Annex 1 species which should have been protected from potentially harmful development by European law, and as such I believe that the Scottish Ministers are culpable. The Norwegians themselves may wish to think again about supplying young sea eagles for the ongoing re-introduction programme in Scotland if we continue to cover our hills and mountains with these bird-killing turbines. It is not just wind farms that are the problem – many aquatic species which should also be protected under European law are being sacrificed in the rush to build micro-hydro-electric schemes in inappropriate locations, such as the Birks of Aberfeldy (the woodland gorge made famous for its waterfalls by Robert Burns!), which is also a SSSI and part of the River Tay SAC. Up to 3/4 of the flow over the waterfalls will be diverted into a pipe all for the sake of a pitiful 1MW of electricity. Renewables madness.

    • Susan says:

      Not sure if you know, planning is in to extend Calliacher by another 7turbines we only have till tomorrow to respond to this application. I have just heard RSPB have agreed to the extension, the original scheme is still under construction.
      I have battled 9 years to try and stop those applications and attened 3PLI.
      We brought evidence to the inquiry on bird issues and proved the level of bird surveys were inadequate but were not listen to.Also brought evidence from the B/D Pylon Line showing Hen Harriers flight lines flying offer the proposed turbines and yet again fell on deaf ears. In the new ES there are 9 target key species again are mapped flying over and around site.
      As you probably know 2 Hen Harriers were killed in Griffin.
      Calliacher was passed on strict conditions that a HMP was to be implemented for foraging Harriers etc to date the Council are unable to produce details. I am being kept up to speed on this matter and RSPB have been informed.
      Also two Sea Eagles have been here for a while now and I think they are tagged no mention of them in the ES or the Remony Eagles.

  8. Dr G. Watkins says:

    It is very surprising that anyone concerned for our environment can support wind farms which have a very negative effect on both birds and humans for no benefit. Electricity from wind is intermittent and requires immediate back-up from conventional power sources. Rarely do wind farms exceed 30% of their installed capacity and often considerably less than this despite the exaggerated claims of proponents.
    http://www.geog.ox.ac.uk/~dcurtis/NETA.html
    Check out this official NETA site which gives near real time UK electricity use by fuel source. Note that not infrequently the interconnector from France (nuclear) supplies more electricity than wind.

  9. Alex Cull says:

    It’s interesting to consider wind farms and their impact on wildlife in the light of the UK’s recent National Ecosystem Assessment. One of its six key findings is: “The natural world, its biodiversity and its constituent ecosystems are critically important to our well-being and economic prosperity, but are consistently undervalued in conventional economic analyses and decision making.”

    If the mere view of a green space is valued at £300 per person per year, what price a white-tailed eagle, or the last great bustard?

    If this externality was factored in, and given that DECC has approval for 210 new wind farms and is planning for another 270, in addition to its existing 292 wind farms and 43 now under construction (figures from The Ecologist), what impact might that have on the competitiveness of wind power?

  10. Hobbes says:

    Congratulations on joining the likes of David Bellamy et al

    I can’t believe that the same person who wrote “Six Degrees” is so willing to endorse ridiculous reactionary framing of windfarms. What’s more important to you these days, climate change or hippie-bashing? Disappointing… couldn’t you have written about what’s going on in Bonn instead perhaps?

  11. Hobbes says:

    Also, sorry, I didn’t articulate this well at all, but I actually genuinely mean that I (& I’m sure lots of other people too) would like to hear your take on bonn, kyoto, what the aosis is up to, that new oxfam report about developing countries having better emissions reductions than developed…not stuff about windfarms that brings climate deniers out of the woodwork (looking at the websites of other people in this comment thread..)

  12. I agree completely that the decisions of which sites to use first for wind projects should take the impact on bird wildlife into account.That’s just common sense. Just like choosing sites that actually have good wind blowing.

    If wind proponents ignore this problem, they will get a lot of opposition from bird protection interests. That will slow down or maybe even stop development.

    Therefore calling some attention to this problem is far from opposing wind energy. It is a prerequisite for rapid growth of the sector.

    Just like we expect from nuclear plants to take all sorts of steps to enhance safety as a matter of course, one should expect from wind energy to at the very least acknowledge that there is a problem.

    And maybe even go so far as to do something about it, like a radar-based acoustic alarm that gives a loud warning to any bird coming close, or whatever else people might come up with once they see this as a problem that should not just simply be ignored.

  13. Hector Balint says:

    As a piece of scientific evidence Jorge “the last great bustard” belongs with the ear-less rabbit “born near Fukushima”.

  14. Titan28 says:

    I am right now skeptical about wind power, for obvious electrical, financial, and technological reasons. I’d also heard windmills harmed birds and bats, and that this all by itself was to me a rather important reason to question any large-scale introduction of windmills into the power grid. I had then read (can’t recall where; might be important) that newer windmill fan blades had been modified, and that the windmills themselves stood high enough off the ground so that birds would not be slaughtered when the blades were spinning. In effect, no more birds would be killed.

    Can anyone here provide information on this? My sense was the bird-kill problem had been solved. This thread says not so.

    Thank you.

  15. Rathtyen says:

    The article, and a number of comments, miss an additional point: because wind is intermittent, it must be backed up by conventional energy. And because the wind is unpredictable, the conventional generation back-up needs to be “warm” (ie running and ready).

    For those not familiar with base generation, it is very simple. Wind generation only works when the wing blows (and as long as it isn’t blowing too hard). This creates a major problem for producing reliable power given the wind isn’t consistent and does not correlate to peak electricity use. In reality, wind power is used when it is available, and when it isn’t, conventional power is used. If the back-up is coal or nuclear, it needs to be kept running all the time (it cannot be quickly turned on and off, that process takes days or even weeks). If it is gas power, the turbines can be started quickly when needed, but once fired up, cannot be quickly shutdown (the reason for this is due to the stresses caused by the temperatures involved – you can’t rapidly heat and cool easily without doing damage.

    What this means is wind doesn’t really represent a saving in emissions at all. The coal burning power stations are still chugging away in the background, but are running inefficiently at low capacity, increasing their emissions relative to the quantity of fuel used. Add the additional mining (for all the magnets in wind generators), the manufacture of the wind generators, high maintenance, and all the extra expensive transmission lines to connect them all, and there is a point where sanity requires one to step back and ask “please explain why we are doing this again?”

    Add in this article about birds and bats, and it becomes a bit of a slam dunk – this is not a viable technology on a mass scale.

    For solar, just have a think about when you and everyone else uses power the most, when it is light or dark? And when does solar work? Of course for those wanting to store it for night use, think in terms of twice as much solar generation capacity required (to meet the day’s demand plus to be able to store energy for the night), plus storage plant (that technology doesn’t exist yet) – still more than twice as much plant is needed, adding to the cost. Plus the production process for solar panels is quite toxic. PLUS – what happens on those dim winter days when it is snowing and power is needed to keep people alive – solar doesn’t work so well at those sorts of stress times.

    For those people who believe wind/solar are the answer to all our problems, take the trouble to do a little bit of research – but you do have to dig past the propaganda you are likely used too. Be inquisitive, ask questions, starting with this one: despite all the wind farms etc, how many thermal or nuclear generators do you see being closed down? Not ones being talked about, or planned for closure, but actually closed and not replaced. Its just not happening, and for good reason. Have a really hard think about why.

  16. Rathtyen says:

    re: Titan28 says:
    13 June 2011 at 4:11 pm
    “and that the windmills themselves stood high enough off the ground so that birds would not be slaughtered when the blades were spinning”

    I can’t answer your question per se, but I can offer this observation: the height is a major part of the problem because the types of birds most vulnerable, raptors and migrating birds, fly high (as well as low).

    I don’t think that solves the problem.

  17. MIke Haseler says:

    Mark,

    I’ve not read this properly, but yet again you highlight an important issue. I remember when I was on the Green Party executive council before the 2003? Scottish elections. They were trying to devise a set of posters and were looking for an endangered species. I suggested “Cod”. Because, clearly it was endangered, it was Scottish, it was something everyone could do something about. OK, it possibly wasn’t the best suggestion, but I was horrified by the response. I very clearly got the impression, that these campaigners weren’t there to save something as mundane as “Cod”, their sights were set on much more exotic creatures …. mostly in some far off country … usually with a nice furry coat … and certainly not one they were about to eat themselves after the meeting.

    Likewise, when it came to wind: there was a total disconnect between the “wilderness” they were saving (usually far off places that they went to on their eco-holidays) and the “wilderness” which they were about to turn into a business park for windmills.

    Likewise the pump storage schemes which are inevitable when we get above around 16% wind. Everyone, and particularly the greens, treat wind as some magical “free” energy source which is going to save the wilderness from humans. In fact, it is almost entirely the opposite. The wilderness is becoming a wind-industrial estate, the valleys will be turned into hydro schemes and the best will be used as pump storage. These are incredibly expensive, yet, we will need hundreds of the things. A figure it is impossible to calculate based on the current three? in the UK, because for obvious reasons, these were chosen as the best sites, and by the time we get to hundreds, the best sites will be long gone, and we may need many many more than first estimate suggest.

    Compared to the industrialisation of the urban areas, this “green” policy is a nightmare precisely because it reaches into the very heart of the wilderness.

    Fortunately nature is pretty robust and not even these greens can utterly destroy it, but …. for heaven’s sake, they’ve really given it a go.

    Which is why I call windmills: Birdmincers … which I think translates as “Birdmangler” (mince being meat that is cut to small pieces through a mincer … )

  18. Dennis says:

    Greenman made a video about this subject: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=llIbjC49Fjs
    Only 0.003% of the birds die from wind turbines.

  19. Neil says:

    What this demonstrates is that there is no one solution to solving future power needs anywhere in the world. The focus on single technology solutions is misplaced and generally ignores consequential effects.

    I often hear that hydro will balance out wind, but then I also hear the complaints about the ramping up and down of hydro and the effects it has on river bank stability etc as it merely load follows today. What will that look like when it has to not only load follow, but wind follow? Then we add solar etc. Anything that cannot be controlled requires something in an integrated power system to respond, be that load or generation. It is not simple, it is not cheap and it is not solved with one technology.

    By way of disclosure I work in electricity, for an approx 80% renewables based generation company, but we also have gas fired plant and even though we have a preference for renewables, that would not stop us building more gas plant if it made sense.

  20. wiegand says:

    Thousands of time a day at wind farms across the world protected bird species are killed. The cover-up has be ongoing for over 25 years. When enough people stand up against this industry they can be forced to implement new turbine designs into their wind farms. Until then the profiteers will lie, pacify the public with bogus studies, claim they are working on the problem, and continue to make their fortunes from these killers.
    The new propeller style wind turbines reach 400- 500 ft into the sky and have a kill zone 30 times the area of the famous eagle killing turbines built at Altamont Pass. Now a wind farm of 50 turbines is equivalent to 1500 of theses early turbines. The blade tips on the new models also spin at over 220mph at 20 rotations per minute, twice as fast. The industry does not like to talk about these facts.
    Despite industry propaganda, cats, windows, cars etc. kill almost no rare and endangered species such as Condors, Whooping Cranes, Red Kites,Tasmanian Wedge Tailed Eagles, and Egyptian Vultures. I could go on and on with this death list. The fact is, once these turbines are put into their foraging and nesting habitats they become the primary killers of these species. No bird or bat is safe from these turbines. The public rarely hears about it because of wind farm security and carefully written contracts with gag orders.
    Currently there is an eagle-conservation plan now being proposed by the USFWS would give nesting eagles a ten mile buffer from wind turbine sites. The plan missed two key points (1) it should pertain just to the deadly propeller style wind turbine. This would give the wind industry incentive to move away from the industry’s 220 mph tip speed killers and it would spare many other bird species from inevitable slaughter and (2) It needs to be a felony to hide carcasses of protected species killed at wind farms. An ongoing problem at wind farms across America. I can not stress this enough, until it is a felony to conceal bird carcasses found at wind farms it is impossible to get an accurate accounting of wind farm fatalities.
    In California the success of the California Condor breeding programs is now bittersweet because there are few if any free flying condors. This is because their habitats have been invaded by thousands of lethal wind turbines with their blade tips spinning at over 200 mph. To keep the condors from wandering into these death traps, all three condor populations are fed at established feeding stations where carcasses are dumped. Instead of wandering over 1000 of square miles looking for food, the condors now stay near their feeding stations.
    One must remember the primary goal for these corporations it to get their hands on the taxpayers money and that renewable energy mandates were created by the industry to help create a demand for these killers. In the end the taxpayers and wildlife are the big losers. In addition it is very foolish for anyone to think there will be any reduction in coal or oil generated carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere because of wind turbines. The only reduction will come when every last bit of coal or oil has been extracted from the earth. Until then it is full speed ahead for for oil, coal and whatever else these corporations can be sell to consumers.

  21. Chris Church says:

    The orginal post here is some of the worst ‘scientific’ journalism on this subject I have ever seen – if it’s meant to be scientific. The same two principal cases – Spain and Norway – spouted again, with no consideration of what has happened since. Nobattempt to put any of this in perspective.

    Add a long self -referential quote from someone who is a ‘ conservation biologist from Oxford (he must be right then!)’ with nothing beyond the usual anti-wind sites as back-up. Then mix in neo-liberal talk about ‘fake charities’ with a scattering of the usual innacurate claims about wind, flavour that with lots about hidden evidence and conspiracy and you have a pile of garbage. This would go down great on the UKIP website – and this is from someone who used to have pretensions to be on the left….

    • Chris:

      You and others are quite right that there isn’t proper balance here.

      An underlying assumption here is that wind energy is providing some consequential environmental benefit.

      That is totally unproven and unquantified.

      Wind lobbyists cite “computer models” while having enormous amounts of empirical data at their disposal — so where is the real-world proof?

      Until we have objective, transparent, empirical-based proof of the environmental benefits provided by wind energy, all conversation about whether the environmental detriments (e.g. bird loss) are acceptable, are meaningless.

      See EnergyPresentation.Info for a scientific assessment of this situation.

  22. Webcraft says:

    It is a pity that people like Rathtyen are incapable of sticking to the point in hand. This post was about the effect of wind turbines on raptors. We do not need to hear all the other old familiar arguments against wind turbines trotted out.

    This is such an emotional subject that I am frankly unprepared to believe either side when it comes to the numbers of birds actually killed. Are there any incontrovertible numbers? And in terms of extinction threat, how significant are these numbers?

    • Carrie says:

      ‘It is a pity that people like Rathtyen are incapable of sticking to the point in hand. This post was about the effect of wind turbines on raptors. We do not need to hear all the other old familiar arguments against wind turbines trotted out.’
      Surely that’s precisely the reason that people should be told! If wind turbines are inefficient and will not produce enough electricity to run the country, are producing more CO2 because back up has to be in place at all times and idling conventional power stations does just this, if they produce yet more CO2 due to being built, transported and set up in rural areas, if they ruin tourism and blight people’s lives who live in the vicinity, if they encroach on wildlife habitat, if they cause pollution on a huge scale due to the massive amounts of minerals needed to make them work, if they cause fuel poverty and death in the elderly who are too scared to heat their homes as happened last year and finally kill both birds and bats then why on earth (excuse my pun) would we be stupid enough to erect them!!!
      I hazard a guess that it comes down to money as always, money for the government in green taxes, money to the wind turbine manufacturing industry whom are predominantly in Asia, money to big oil as they have ploughed huge amounts of cash into lobbying for these as they have invested heavily in green energy, money to the likes of RES and money for the landowners… and who pays all this pointless money, we do; a massive 25% extra on our fuel bills…you won’t see it on your bill as they are not made to declare green taxes!
      Environmentalists have been well and truly played over the last few decades and thankfully some are starting to wake up to it at long last!

  23. Balance! says:

    It would be good to get some balance into this debate.

    Yes there are problems with Sea Eagles in Norway, (a windfarm in the wrong place). I live in an area where we have a large number of red kites and buzzard We have also had a windfarm operating here since 1991. I frequently walk my two labradors on the site and to my knowledge there have been no raptors killed on this site in all that time. I have also seen very few bats on this desolate site. So it appears that if sited correctly windfarms can have a negligible effect on bird life. There are a number of scientific( peer reviewed) research papers to back this up.

    In the long history of wind farm objectors there has been a desire to grasp often unsubstantiated evidence and amateur supposition to back a position first based on a problem with the aesthetics of windfarms. Aesthetics are highly subjective. How often have we heard the phrase ‘landscape ruined’ unlike virtually all other forms of energy generation, windfarms can be taken down and the landscape restored. Our local wind farm developers had to deposit a de-commisioning bond before they were granted planning.

    This is a complex issue and requires more research and reading than most objectors are prepared to undertake. For example, rubbishing wind energy purely in the light of the small contribution it makes to our overall energy needs is lazy thinking, there are factors such as the comparative ‘energy yield’ (The energy used to manufacture against the energy it produces over its working lifetime). PV has a energy yield of just 4 compared with wind which is 80!

    To complain about subsidies for wind energy alone doesn’t take into consideration what our energy bill should have been over all these years to pay for the environmental mess we have created using fossil fuel or nuclear.

    If anyone in this debate is interested in being better informed about their relative position then they should read David Mackays book ‘Renewables without the hot air’ This guy has done his homework from both an engineering and economics perspective, if you spout off about wind energy you should have at least read his book. it is available to read online at http://www.withouthotair.com/.

    There is a huge amount of unscientific supposition regularly regurgitated by journalists, which by the fact that it has been published in a newspaper becomes accepted fact. An example is the much spouted fact that offshore turbine sub-sonics kill whales and dolphins. Where is the scientific research that says this?

    Yes I am pro wind energy, what we have to understand is that there are no easy answers to our huge problems. Whatever solutions we come up with will not be cost free in terms of their impact. But this topic deserves more than the lazy thinking that most give it. I was recently struck by the irony that a local anti-windfarm protest march around an upland reservoir conveniently forgot that this beauty spot, which they felt would be ruined by a proposed windfarm, once had a very different beauty before the valley was flooded ( to provide hydro electricity!!!!) removing far more bio diversity than the building of their much hated windfarm… lazy thinking!

  24. NewYorkJ says:

    Nuclear power kills many birds too, on par with wind power per unit of energy consumed.

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301421509001074

    This doesn’t mean wind power can’t be safer. Updates on Altamont Pass…

    http://sfist.com/2010/12/07/altamont_pass_to_get_less-deadly_wi.php

    • Pete says:

      One of your links is to a paper that suggests that wind turbines killed 7,000 birds in the USA in 2006. The other link is to a report that 9,300 birds are killed each year in a small area of California. No wonder we are all confused.

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