Wind Farms: Bird Killers?

[Update: after some feedback on Twitter, and in the comments  I should point out the main objection to the Spectator article I refer to. I probably didn't do a good job making it clear originally. The piece claims wind turbines are an extinction threat for many species. The "threat status" assessments of the species the article refers to indicate that this is probably not the case.]

Wind turbines kill birds and bats. A rather stark and provocative sentence, yet somewhat uninformative. This week’s Spectator however has an article which goes somewhat further. Written by Clive Hambler, of Oxford University, it starts like this:

Wind farms are devastating populations of rare birds and bats across the world, driving some to the point of extinction. Most environmentalists just don’t want to know. Because they’re so desperate to believe in renewable energy, they’re in a state of denial. But the evidence suggests that, this century at least, renewables pose a far greater threat to wildlife than climate change.

Now, the initial response to it on Twitter was for some climate change “skeptics” and a few nuclear advocates to leap in to action and say it was a clear condemnation of how bad wind farms are for wildlife. Reading tweets such as this from James Delingpole probably is enough to make sane people dismiss the story:

Now, if James Delingpole describes something as great my gut instinct is to conclude that is probably rubbish. Yet, George Monbiot suggests that the issues raised in the piece must be taken seriously:

So, should this piece makes us reconsider wind farms? Let’s begin with a little fact checking. The first claim about bird and bat deaths is this:

Every year in Spain alone — according to research by the conservation group SEO/Birdlife — between 6 and 18 million birds and bats are killed by wind farms.

As far as I can tell the claim has been made by SEO/Birdlife, however I cannot find an actual report anywhere, so the claim simply has to be taken on authority. Exactly what SEO/Birdlife concluded from this is not clear, but 6 to 18 million deaths sure sounds impressive. [Update: Anthony Hallam has pointed to the SEO/Birdlife report (the relevant stuff is on page 12 apparently). My Spanish is just about enough to order food on my occasional visits to Barcelona, so if any Spanish readers have views on it, enlighten me in the comments section.]

This leads me to the next claim:

And these figures may be conservative if you compare them to statistics published in December 2002 by the California Energy Commission: ‘In a summary of avian impacts at wind turbines by Benner et al (1993) bird deaths per turbine per year were as high as 309 in Germany and 895 in Sweden.’

A look through Google Scholar indicates that a) this study is not available to download anywhere, and b) was an “unpublished report.” By coincidence, or not, my search for the SEO/Birdlife report threw up a press release from “Save the Eagles International” in which they wrote the following:

Quoting from a California Energy Commission study: “In a summary of avian
impacts at wind turbines by Benner et al. (1993) bird deaths per turbine per year
were as high as 309 in Germany and 895 in Sweden.”

This press release was written by Mark Duchamp, who is according to the Spectator piece a colleague of Hambler’s. So, the best we can do for these two claims is read a press release from a group that appears to campaign against wind farms.

Let’s move one to the next claim:

In Australia, the Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagle is threatened with global extinction by wind farms.

It is true that this species (or more accurately subspecies) is threatened with extinction, but is it from wind farms? The Australian government website listing threats to species suggests that while wind turbines are a potential threat, most of the evidence suggests it is a very limited one.

Moving on:

In Spain, the Egyptian vulture is threatened, as too is the Griffon vulture — 400 of which were killed in one year at Navarra alone.

The Egyptian vulture does appear to be threatened by wind turbines, however given its wide geographic range, and number of other threats it face, it appears turbines are ab limited threat. Methods to reduce the mortality rate of the Griffon vulture by about 50% have been proposed, and it is important to note that this species is currently increasing in numbers throughout its geographic range, and is not regarded as being vulnerable.

Moving on again:

Norwegian wind farms kill over ten white-tailed eagles per year and the population of Smøla has been severely impacted by turbines built against the opposition of ornithologists.

The first thing to note here is that Norway gets close to 100% of its electricity from hydro-electric. In fact it has only used about 60% of its hydro potential. So, Norway is a bad country to choose as an example of wind farm impacts. This species is also not listed as vulnerable, however wind farms may pose a minor threat.

I could go on, but I won’t. Overall, it is quite clear that this article is an attempt to impress, and not inform, with numbers. This reaches its peak at towards the end:

Some studies in the US have put the death toll as high as 70 bats per installed megawatt per year: with 40,000 MW of turbines currently installed in the US and Canada. This would give an annual death toll of up to three million.

Now, I am going to confess that I probably know as little about bats as the average Spectator reader. Is three million bats killed per year a lot? It may or not be, but Hambler makes no effort to demonstrate that it is, relying instead on the reader being impressed by the large figure.

Let’s try to put these big numbers in to perspective. A recent Nature piece included a good summary of, and the uncertainties involved, in bird deaths due to various things humans do:

Wind2

Looking at this it would seem that wind farms aren’t much more damaging to birds than many regular human activities. And if wind farms are bad, then it is probably high time that we engaged in widespread cat euthanasia.

Does this mean that wind farms should be a given a free pass? Absolutely not. It is clear that there are areas where wind farms will do significant damage to individual species. The correct response to this, however is not opposition to wind farms, but to treat wind farms on a case by case basis.

However, what has been missing from everything I have written above, and in the Spectator article, is a comparison of wind power with other forms of electricity generation. The choice is not between building a wind farm and not building it, but between building a wind farm and building something else. As Tom Webb writes here, UK nuclear power stations probably kill millions of fish each year. This number however should, like windfarm bird kills, should be put in context of other human activities, i.e. fishing. In fact, if you gave me a day, I could probably write an article about any power source to show that it has serious wildlife impacts, and even squeeze in a claim or two about millions of deaths to species.

I suspect that we really do not have a clear idea whether wind power is better or worse for wildlife than nuclear power, or any other source. However, if anyone disagrees with me, the comments section is all yours.

[Note: as was pointed out to me on Twitter and in the comments section I should have mentioned the position statements of major bird organisations. As far as I am aware none of them could be labelled "anti-wind farms." The RSPB's position is given here, and this quote is worth bearing in mind:

We are calling for a more strategic and long-term planning approach to wind development than is currently being taken. With the right strategy and planning safeguards, and with co-operation between developers and conservationists, renewable targets can be achieved without significant detrimental effects on birds of conservation concern or their habitats.

]

[Update: a couple of people on Twitter reminded me of this excellent figure from David MacKay's Sustainable Energy Without The Hot Air, which puts wind farm bird kills in context:

figure73

Figure 10.6. Birds lost in action. Annual bird deaths in Denmark caused by wind turbines and cars, and annual bird deaths in Britain caused by cats. Numbers from Lomborg (2001). Collisions with windows kill a similar number to cats.

]

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74 thoughts on “Wind Farms: Bird Killers?”

    1. Useful in the context of the post, not really. I wasn’t trying directly compare nuclear and wind. Simply saying there are impacts of both. Not expressing a view on which are worse.

      1. Sure. I guess a concern might be that, since wind currently doesnt generate a big proportion of our electricity, if it were to be scaled up in a real attempt to displace fossil fuels these impacts could increase considerably.

      2. Graham

        This may or may not be true. What is needed, however, are direct comparisons. As far as I know more or less none exist. It also seems clear that with good regulations in place, and improved tech, that the kill rates can be kept down. It seems to me that the idea that wind farms threaten the extinction of lots of species is lot of hot air.

  1. We are invited to conclude that an indefinite number of birds and bats are acceptable casualties in the campaign to save the environment. Whatever those numbers might be — but in the context presented, relevant numbers are not mentioned. We need to compare bird deaths/MW/yr of wind, coal, gas and nuclear.

    Better yet, we should compare subsidies. What’s the public funding per dead bird or bat from wind, coal, gas and nuclear? Real numbers would be instructive, but it’s likely we get the most dead birds and bats for our tax money with wind power.

  2. You can find more information on fish impacts of nuclear plants here http://cdn.environment-agency.gov.uk/scho0610bsot-e-e.pdf Chapter 6 onwards. While I say nuclear, any thermal plant should be similar.

    With these animal kill debates I would suggest that it’s not the headline number so much as the overall species/ecosystem impact that matters. Can anyone give me an idea on how the populations of these affected species are actually faring as a result? That would make it interesting.

    1. The nuclear power issue is maybe more tricky. The impacts appear to be trivial compared with overfishing, so you might say it’s irrelevant. On the other hand it might be reasonably cheap to reduce the number of fish being killed by thermal plants in comparison to those being killed due to overfishing.

      Another difficulty is that the “kill rate” is not fixed. There would probably need to be very clear differences between wildlife impacts of each power source before you could decide one is worse than the other.

      1. I used to have a fishing buddy – now deceased – who actually said that the fishing was good where the warm water outflow from the local nuclear power plant emerged. But the criterion for waste heat production by a heat engine, regardless of the fuel (it would apply even to a solar powered Stirling engine) is the efficiency of the engine. A nuclear power plant of modern breeder design, whether LMFBR or LFTR, delivers a higher temperature to its generator engine than coal does, which by standard thermodynamic analysis gives off less waste heat per GW-hr for that reason.
        Much as I consider hydro power to be the only significant use of current solar power available to us, I reckon that the health of the Pacific Northwest salmon populations would be greatly benefited by replacing the power from the Grand Coulee dam with nuclear. Likewise the Colorado River, and Hoover Dam, which I believe has no fish ladders.
        But the overwhelming argument against wind turbines is that the wind cannot be scheduled to match the demand.

  3. Numbers of birds killed by (say) cats and wind turbines are a deeply unhelpful statistic unless you believe that birds are essentially fungible, so that (for example) the death of a sea eagle and the death of a blue tit are equivalent.

      1. “The time required to do that would justify a significant paper, not a quick blog response to an article in the Spectator.”

        Mmmm, your “moving on” quickly through the points doesn’t seem as devastating as you think if you can only furnish weak responses like this when queried on one. If you think the comparative cat threat image is a powerful counterargument then it seems you clearly think pigeons and blue tits equate to rare raptors. Fair enough, but own up to that point. Don’t say you haven’t got time to think about it.

        For instance the Spectator article makes the point that turbines are sited in places with thermals which attract raptors, and offer clear ground underneath where their prey would be. If only cats could be so devious in designing a trap ;)

        I can see all the woodland creatures flocking underneath windmills and flicking the V’s skyward now ;)

        Also not sure of your reasoning in your argument against this point:

        “[Norwegian white-tailed eagles] population of Smøla has been severely impacted by turbines built against the opposition of ornithologists.”

        You say Norway hardly uses wind turbines and so “is a bad country to choose as an example of wind farm impacts”

        How specious is that? You later claim to prefer a megawatt per death approach but forget this previous impressive fact Norway is severely impacting a whole population for its minor wattage wind farm use. Moving along too fast there?

      2. Correction: you didn’t say you prefer a megawatt to deaths approach, I was moving along too fast there ;)

      3. The figures are available for endangered species, and raptors, killed by the miserable 0.5 GW (peak capacity) of Altamont Pass in California. They are a condemnation of the entire project, which generates less energy than the San Onofre reactors alone. Nuclear reactors are also independent of the weather.

    1. There are very few sea eagles killed by cats, and very few crows and starlings killed by wind turbines. But sea eagles are not as common as starlings, and not as clever as crows. Any large bird, and any bird that has evolved as top predator, is exactly the kind of bird most vulnerable towind turbines. I think you should be able to find data on the death toll (about 4,000 when the Audubon, I think, filed suit) at Altamont Pass, which even so does not provide enough power to replace a single coal burner.

  4. Should we be looking at impact to populations, rather than number of deaths? If populations are steady, the argument of deaths is more of a moralistic one, rather than one of ecological impacts, no?

    1. Very good question, and not one with an easy answer.

      As far as I understand it this is the reason most bird groups don’t pay much attention to deaths due to cats. They believe the overall impact on the population is not significant.

      Moving away from moral choices here does not seem possible. To put it plainly: are a million bird deaths from an un-endangered species somehow less important than a thousand from an endangered one? Choosing the latter is probably the consensus view, but still it has a very clear moral underpinning.

      To put it more provocatively: you could kill a million Europeans each year, and the population would keep growing, but doing the same thing on a small island would wipe out the population. Reframe what I wrote above in this way, and you see the moral dilemma.

      1. Birds aren’t humans. At Christmas it is the turkey that gets it in the neck. Some consider that to be a immoral but most don’t.

        The relationship between birds and climate change is a compilcated one. They can and do change their domains and their migration patterns. Via habitat changes they are affected and to which they respond. E.G. were not the trans-Saharan migrations produced by the appearance of the Sahara.

        Given limited resources, the wise eye is focused on the most desparate issues, e.g. risks of extinctions, the blind eye is turned to the unfortunate but bearable losses.

    2. Bird deaths are inevitable, extinctions less so. In the next fifty years, twice as many humans will die as in the previous fifty, because the world population has doubled. A single death in the world population of wolverines (there are about three hundred) is vastly more of a tragedy than the hundreds of squirrels slain by motorcars. Mind you, if humans had not slaughtered the trees of the aboriginal eastern forest, the squirrels would have nothing to worry about.

    1. Alexander

      I largely agree with the RSPB’s stance. They have opposed about 6% of wind farms applications (though I’m not sure how that works out in terms of capacity.)

      The same is true for Birdlife, which the Spectator article makes out to be claiming wind farms are causing massive problems to birds.

      Where I would perhaps disagree with RSPB is that they probably tilt things too much in favour of birds. After all if you don’t build a wind farm you may just end up burning more fossil fuels. It’s not clear where the balance of risks really lies in these circumstances.

      1. Robert

        Given that they are the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (and not windfarms) I think an avian bias would be healthy !

        Others may make they case that bird loss is the lesser price to pay but it shouldn’t be for RSPB to do so.

        They do understand the issues, they do have thought out policy positions but not just for climate (e.g. warming seas and sandeels) they also other concerns (e.g. song bird hunting).

        It seems from comments following the Spectator piece, RSPB is suspected to be in the pay of BigWind.

      2. Robert, this is a great blog with some informed discussion – thank you. I agree with Alexander, and it would have been better to have the RSPB’s view included within the main text.
        What I am taking from this is that the statistics are still inconclusive and I suspect that most organisations or MSc/PhD students trying to cover the issue completely would not have enough resource to do it justice, and we’ve not even started on the relative effect of horizontal/vertical axis turbines.

      3. Thanks Carl

        I have now added a statement from RSPB at the bottom of the post. For me the fundamental issue is whether wind farms are worse for wildlife than other low carbon forms of energy, be it nuclear, solar or CCS. Overall there does not seem to be much evidence either way on this question. I don’t suspect we will have an answer to this any time soon, and certainly not in time to fully inform our decisions about a low carbon energy mix.

      4. If my fellow environmentalists would look at the actual data on how much wind turbines have reduced coal and gas burning in countries where the nominal total capacity of them is significant, they’d have as little enthusiasm for them as I do. When the wind speed drops 1%, its power drops 3%, because it’s the cube of the wind speed. The customary way to fill sharp increases of demand, or sudden loss of generator power, is to keep gas turbines spinning so that the power can be met by opening the gas throttles.
        Never mind the doubts about how bad the bird kill is. The thing to look at is how much use wind turbines are in replacing fossil carbon fuel (uranium is NOT a fossil fuel, it’s been there since before the Sun ignited). There are no actual figures correlating reduction of coal and gas burning with wind turbine generation.

        Note that nobody is advocating a return to sail powered ships, in spite of the fact that they already had achieved a very high level of sophistication when they were superseded by ugly little coal burners. Even at sea, coal is dependable and wind isn’t. But nuclear powered ships are better than either, if you really need a big, quiet, reliable vessel. The US Navy cut its oil consumption quite spectacularly.

  5. Yet it is not hard to find the bat population of the UK. A quick Google search and the third article had this from the New Scientist of 1990, which gives a quick measure of overall population size – surely a germane point? “NATIONAL BAT Week begins in Britain next week and, as usual, it will be accompanied by the annual census of bats. Conservationists will begin counting the animals on 22 June, as the bats leave their roosts at dusk. Rob Stebbings, the coordinator of the National Bat Count*, hopes that numbers have begun to recover. When the first survey was made in 1978, conservationists estimated that the British population stood at 3 to 4 million. Last year’s survey showed that the population had halved.”

      1. You question whether it is significant that up to 3 million bats a year die from wind turbines in the US (or 70 bats per megawatt), but do not put this in the context that the total British bat population is measured in the low millions (I imagine that a quick call to the National Bat Count would get a plot of numbers for the past two decades, and show whether in fact there is a problem) – which might suggest that the impact of the turbines on bats may be more than your post would suggest.

    1. If you actually have as much sympathy for wildlife as the poet who called a mouse his fellow mortal, you might note that the way the bats die from wind turbines is particularly horrible, and even occurs when the turbine output is pretty useless.
      Insectivorous bats fly in fairly light winds, because you don’t catch many insects flying in strong winds. But the puzling thing was that in the best studied bat kills, it was found that bats with no external injuries were the majority of the fatalities. When a turbine blade passes upwind of a bat, a pocket of sharply reduced air pressure hits the bat, and the alveoli of its lungs rupture. Birds have a breathing system that uses hollow bones, so to kill one you actually have to hit it with your turbine blade.

  6. This article is “somewhat uninformative”.

    Though I agree that your graph is attractively plotted, I don’t know why anyone would compare annual wind turbine bird fatalities in one country with cars and cat fatalities in another country. Needlessly changing more than one variable at a time can only be described as misleading.

    Similarly saying that “nuclear kills millions of fish” is useless without making an attempt to quantify the energy produced. It may be hard to compare the value of a dead raptor or bat to one of these fish but we should at least look at kills per joule of energy.

    1. genemachine

      It would be helpful if you understood what I was trying to say. I simply stated that nuclear power plants kill fish, then said I had no idea if nuclear was better or worse for wildlife than wind farms.

  7. As a long-time birder with an ornithology degree, I’ve been interested in this topic for a long time. I’m always surprised at how people argue for or against wind turbines because of their harmlessness/harmfulness to birds while ignoring the impact of the transmission lines needed to carry the power from new windfarms (and solar power installations and coal-fired plants) to users. A few studies have shown these to be significant, especially to certain groups of birds in certain areas, e.g. bustards and (threatened) Cape Vultures in southern Africa. (For a credible summary of the bustard issue, see http://www.fitzpatrick.uct.ac.za/africa_birds/ABB14(2)34-39.pdf)

  8. I share much of your view that data trumps anecdotes. The latest Green message that low carbon is the only worthwhile metric is ludicrous and Hambler’s op-ed does push back against the one metric meme of low carbon trumping all. Here in the US, oil companies get fined for killing one protected raptor species, while wind turbines receive a free pass. Such double standards make no sense.

    You are correct that a cost/benefit analysis needs to be added to the conversation.

    Is the x% loss of raptors and bats from the population an acceptable price for benefit derived from the megawatts provided? My inclination is toward “no.” But, the cost/benefit analysis needs to be added to the conversation.

    1. I agree with George Monobiot, that we need to take this issue seriously. Looks to me like the author is racing through with the sole objective of discounting the evidence. For example, the author brushes impacts on Australian eagles off but a second look at the actual report on Tasmanian Wedge-tailed Eagles (page 12) indicates significant impacts underlying valid concerns:
      “Wind farms are particularly affected by the management of these two species because of the HIGH PRIMARY INCIDENCE of and POTENTIAL for EAGLE FATALITIES and INJURIES with TURBINES [emphasis added]. Secondary impacts from windfarms also relate to nest disturbance and the displacement of breeding pairs. There is growing level of knowledge about the response of these eagle species to wind turbines in the Tasmanian context, but much more information is needed”.

      1. The article claimed wind threatened species with extinction. How does this quote provide evidence of that?

        I could also highlight words: “BUT MUCH MORE INFORMATION IS NEEDED.”

  9. These are complex issues. The author commented that “the choice is not between building a wind farm and not building it, but between building a wind farm and building something else” and I agree. We need to judge the efficacy of wind in context to a full and comprehensive cost-benefit analysis of the alternatives that looks beyond simple (and often overstated) carbon emission savings. Recent reports suggest that wind is considerably less efficient than industry claims. Wind also requires natural gas generation backup that is spiking demand for drilling and fracking — a methane emission bombshell: http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2013/01/02/1388021/bridge-to-nowhere-noaa-confirms-high-methane-leakage-rate-up-to-9-from-gas-fields-gutting-climate-benefit/.. Point of use solar will soon reach grid parity in many places and there is no limit to generation in the built environment. Efficiency has the potential to reduce our energy footprint by 60%. I challenge the climate change community to take a full and honest look at the relative economic, social and ecological trade-offs before digging too deeply in defense of wind.

      1. Sorry for the confusion, I was listing things to consider. Wind is clearly more sporadic and unpredictable than solar. The LA Times recently reported on the connection between wind and increased natural gas generation: http://articles.latimes.com/2012/dec/09/local/la-me-unreliable-power-20121210. But many remote, centralized solar power plants are also adding natural gas generation. Widely distributed solar and wind (as opposed to remote, centralized generation inferred in the article) is far less subject to intermittency. Distributed solar in the built environment could well be a better option than wind since it also avoids devastating wildlife impacts.

      1. The 60% efficiency dividend is well known and applies to wasteful western economies that consume the vast bulk of energy. Lovins’ Rocky Mountain Institute points out that in industrial settings, savings are even higher, “there are abundant opportunities to save 70% to 90% of the energy and cost for lighting, fan, and pump systems; 50% for electric motors; and 60% in areas such as heating, cooling, office equipment, and appliances.”[citation needed] In general, up to 75% of the electricity used in the U.S. today could be saved with efficiency measures that cost less than the electricity itself. The same holds true for home-owners, leaky ducts have remained an invisible energy culprit for years. In fact, researchers at the US Department of Energy and their consortium, Residential Energy Efficient Distribution Systems (REEDS) have found that duct efficiency may be as low as 50-70%. The US Department of Energy has stated that there is potential for energy saving in the magnitude of 90 Billion kWh by increasing home energy efficiency.[7]

        In “that energy efficiency can achieve real emission reductions at low cost.”[8]

  10. Sorry for the confusion, I was listing things to consider. Wind is clearly more sporadic and unpredictable than solar. The LA Times recently reported on the connection between wind and increased natural gas generation: http://articles.latimes.com/2012/dec/09/local/la-me-unreliable-power-20121210. But many remote, centralized solar power plants are also adding natural gas generation. Widely distributed solar and wind (as opposed to remote, centralized generation inferred in the article) is far less subject to intermittency. Distributed solar in the built environment could well be a better option than wind since it also avoids devastating wildlife impacts.

  11. A poorly researched blog. Avian mortality from wind turbines is dwarfed by a huge range of human activities and structures. If you’re concerned about birds being killed you would start by campaigning against cats.

    * “However, in reality, even if wind power supplied all of the country’s electricity, bird fatalities would still be dwarfed by the mortality figures for other types of structures: vehicles, 60 to 80 million; buildings, 98 to 980 million; power lines, up to 174 million; communication towers, 4 to 50 million (Erickson et al. 2001). Furthermore, the American Bird Conservancy estimates that feral and domestic outdoor cats probably kill on the order of hundreds of millions of birds per year (Case 2000).” http://www.evwind.es/2009/11/03/birds-doomed-by-tom-gray/2090/

    Of course, most people who try to attack wind power by claiming they are “bird mincers” generally have no concern for bird populations, they just really hate wind turbines.

    Wind power displaces coal power so wind power is a benefit to wildlife.

    P.S. Comparing mortality per GWh of nuclear and wind then concluding we should build nuclear because it kills fewer birds is obviously a total failure of thinking. Nuclear is no longer economically viable. Wind power is competitive now and getting cheaper and more advanced all the time. Start with those facts.

      1. “Unwelcome facts.” These are facts that I point out in the post, which you clearly made no effort to understand. I might also point out to you that James Delingpole wrote a blog linking to this piece, saying it was “a measure of just how intellectually and morally corrupt Big Green” has become. So, I feel no need to explain what my post means to people incapable of reading it.
        http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/jamesdelingpole/100196794/wind-industry-big-lies-no-3-wind-turbines-are-eco-friendly/

  12. Very interesting piece. What is clear to me is that we need definitive data on the subject with some proper studies across sites and species, and I think that data when published is unlikely to aid the anti-wind turbine camp. But it will provide a firm foundation to the debate.

  13. You may be interested in a short series I wrote Wind Farm- Cons with 5 articles, one of which was bird mortality. Most objections are by folks using birds as a con, few of them really. Care about avian population.

  14. We know that burning coal has caused acid rain that has wiped out bird habitat across the Appalachians. The USGS found mercury in all of 291 streams they tested (http://water.usgs.gov/nawqa/mercury/majorfindings.html), and they say the predominant source is atmospheric deposition. There is no fuel to transport to a wind farm, so birds that might have been killed by trucks are spared. Fossil fuel and nuclear lose 48 to 77% of their energy to heat (http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2012/07/15/516179/wind-turbines-waste-much-less-energy-than-fossil-fuels/). Bats populations are under severe stress thanks to pesticides. We should definitely be concerned about bats, but bat populations have been in decline for decades.

    Fossil fuel production and consumption kill birds in so many ways, it is difficult to quantify them. From oil spills to pollution to climate change impacts. We are poisoning our environment and tampering with the delicate balance of our climate.

    The Union of Concerned Scientists pretty well sum up the many advantages to wind power: http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/coalvswind/

    Finally, for the person complaining about subsidies; maybe you should check on the amount of subsidies that are given to the fossil fuel industry, and the externalized costs that are picked up by the taxpayers. You’ll find that the wind production credit pales by comparison.

    1. Trucks rarely kill eagles. Wind turbines do. Coal is a thousand times filthier than nuclear, and uranium is NOT a fossil fuel, unless you count as fossil fuel the hydrogen that the Sun consumes. It is known that Norway’s hydro, New Zealand’s and Iceland’s geothermal, and France’s nuclear power all are associated with far lower use of coal and gas. There is no detectable correlation between wind or solar power, and reduction in carbon consumption. The actual data published by the US EIA shows this. The commentary associated with the data is tainted by the fashionable “green” tinge.

      But beyond all else, although nuclear reactors provide a far more significant amount of reliable energy than that from current (rather than fossil) solar origin, those presently deployed are miserably wasteful of the uranium resource. A breeder reactor can produce energy from nearly the whole of every thousand tons of natural uranium, turning it all into short-lived fission products, whereas the US practice is to worry about how to throw away the spent fuel rods, and to leave in storage the “depleted” uranium. I reckon we turn only three tons out of every thousand, into actual energy. That gives us about twice as much energy as the only significant solar resource, hydroelectricity.

  15. wind turbines are killing machines and could wipe out the golden eagle in California, wild life experts predict the golden eagle could be wiped out. California which has one of the highest population of this birds in the world, according to one wildlife expert there are around 2,400 golden eagles left and every year, around 80 of them are killed on wind farms.

  16. The trouble with wind turbines, from a bird lover’s viewpoint, is that the vast majority of birds aren’t very threatened. The kind of birds that a wind turbine tends to kill are those big enough not to worry about things swooping down upon then from above, at speeds that match the fastest falcons. Or worse, coming up at them from the other side.
    Big birds, as J.B.S.Haldane observed, mostly depend upon gliding, so that’s why vultures are especially vulnerable. But my pet example, not that it’s been mentioned in the observed deaths, is the albatross. The “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is mostly about the deadly effects of loss of wind to a ship. But its motif is the killing by the Mariner himself, of one bird.
    The great thing about offshore wind turbines is that the avian victims are hard to count, because there are lots of ways for a dead bird on the sea surface to disappear before a human counts them.
    Even so, as a Scotsman (expatriate, but…) I’ve always reckoned that the greatest thing about my birth country is the wild scenery. Now they’re planning to put an army of wind turbines in the sea, to the West of Tiree, one of the remotest of the Outer Hebrides.

  17. Figures for environmental damage per megawatt are not quite illuminating enough. .\They need to be by megawatt-hour, or better stil by gigawatt-year. And if we throw in megawatt-hour in response to demand, the contribution of wind energy is zero. Even sunshine has a better profile than random.

  18. With Arctic permafrost and ocean calthrate methane outgassing ramping up as we cross 400 ppm CO2 concentration in the atmosphere, this entire discussion is, in my opinion, quite moot, because global warming will wreak unprecedented weather havoc, leading to mass species extinction. If there is a way to reduce our carbon footprint at this late hour, it is with wind power. Note that the report out of the Scottish Parliament shows that the wind farms of Scotland offset over 10,000,000 tons of CO2 emissions in 18 months. http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/S4_EconomyEnergyandTourismCommittee/Reports/eeR-12-07w-r.pdf
    – Rick Masters https://soundcloud.com/groups/climate-change

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