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Big Wind & Avian Mortality (Part II: Hiding the Problem)

“The cold reality is that honest, scientific, accurate mortality studies in the Altamont Pass area would result in death tolls that would shock Americans. They would also raise serious questions about wind turbines throughout the United States, especially in major bird habitats like Oregon’s Shepherds Flat wind facility and the whooping cranes’ migratory corridor from Alberta, Canada, to Texas.”

Part I yesterday examined the sober findings and admissions of a 2004 study by the California Energy Commission (CEC) on bird carnage at the Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area (APWRA).

Developing Methods to Reduce Bird Mortality in the Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area also looked at the placement of carcasses in relation to turbine types. It documented that the distances carcasses were found from turbine towers increased significantly as turbine megawatt ratings and blade lengths increased. Based on a sample of about 800 carcasses, the report revealed that birds were found an average of 94 feet (28.5 meters) from 100Kw turbines on towers 81 feet (24.6 meters) high.

Obviously, taller turbines with longer blades and faster blade-tip speeds will catapult stricken birds much further. Figure 1 below shows how a turbine 2.5 times larger will result in an average carcass distance of 372 feet (113.5 meters) from the tower. The wind industry is acutely aware of this.

Wind Turbine raptor mortality distances

That is why it has restricted search areas to 165 feet (50 meters) around its bigger turbines. This ensures that far fewer bodies will be found – and turbine operators will not need to explain away as many carcasses.

Recent mortality studies like those conducted at the Wolfe Island wind project (2.3 MW turbines) and Criterion project in Maryland (2.5 MW turbines) should have used searches 655 feet (200 meters) from turbines, just to find the bulk (75-85%) of the fatalities. Of course, they did not do so. Instead, they restricted their searches to 165 feet – ensuring that they missed most raptor carcasses, and could issue statements claiming that their turbines were having minimal or “acceptable” effects on bird populations.

Later Altamont Pass Study: More Hiding

Other methods and biased formulas allow the industry to exclude or explain away carcasses.


The latest Altamont Pass studies found far more bird carcasses, but Altamont operators still claim mortality declines by using new adjustment formulas and other exclusionary factors as shown in Figure 2.

APWRA mortality numbers

For example, industry analysts:

· Exclude certain carcasses. The 2005–2010 WRRS data show that 347 carcasses (primarily raptors) – plus 21 golden eagle carcasses – were excluded from mortality estimates, because industry personnel claimed they were found outside standard search procedures, said the “cause of death was unknown” (even when the birds’ heads had been sliced off), or removed carcasses ahead of a scheduled search.

· Exclude mortally wounded or crippled birds found during searches, even if they display turbine-related injuries. Even though many birds hit by turbine blades die within days, if they are still breathing when found, they are considered mobile – and thus not fatalities.

· Avoid searching near some of the most dangerous and lethal turbines. The industry justifies this exclusion by claiming that “the number of turbines monitored was reduced and spatially balanced for a randomized rolling panel design.” That this “reduction and balancing” excluded the most deadly portion of the Altamont facility was presented as coincidental or part of a proper scientific methodology.

The cold reality is that honest, scientific, accurate mortality studies in the Altamont Pass area would result in death tolls that would shock Americans. They would also raise serious questions about wind turbines throughout the United States, especially in major bird habitats like Oregon’s Shepherds Flat wind facility and the whooping cranes’ migratory corridor from Alberta, Canada, to Texas.

The techniques discussed here help ensure that “monitoring” studies match the facility operators’ desired conclusions, and mortality figures are kept at “acceptable” levels.

Time for Truth

Not only has the wind industry never solved its environmental problem. It has been hiding at least 90% of this slaughter for decades. In fact, the universal problem of hiding bird (and bat) mortality goes from bad to intolerable beyond the Altamont Pass boundaries, because studies in other areas across North America are far less rigorous, or even nonexistent, and many new turbines are sited in prime bird and bat habitats.

The real death toll, as reported by Paul Driessen and others, is thousands of raptors a year – and up to 39 million birds and bats of all species annually in the United States alone, year after year! This is intolerable, and unsustainable. It is leading to the inevitable extinction of many species, at least in many habitats, and perhaps in the entire Lower 48 States.

Meanwhile, assorted “experts” continue to insist that the greatest threats to golden eagles are other factors like hikers getting too close to their nests, even when most abandoned nests in Southern California are nowhere near any hiking trails and wind turbines continue to slaughter eagles.

It is essential that people realize that no energy source comes anywhere close to killing as many raptors as wind energy does. No other energy companies are allowed to pick up bodies of rare and protected species from around their production sites on a day-to-day basis, year-in and year-out. No other energy producer has a several thousand mile mortality foot print (the highly endangered whooping cranes’ migratory corridor) similar to what wind nergy has.

Once people understand all of this, they will rightfully demand that the wind industry obey the same environmental rules that all other industries must follow. This will require that wind turbines be sited only where the risk of bird deaths is minimal to zero; that turbines be replaced with new designs that birds recognize as obstacles and thus avoid; that fines be levied for every bird death, as is done with other industries; and that industrial wind facilities not be permitted where these requirements cannot be met.

America’s wildlife, and proper application of our environmental laws, require nothing less.


Jim Wiegand is an independent wildlife expert with decades of field observations and analytical work. He is vice president of the US region of Save the Eagles International, an organization devoted to researching, protecting and preserving avian species threatened by human encroachment and development.


1 ttanton { 03.15.13 at 8:51 am }

Excellent post, Mr. Weigand. This PBS video re avian mortality runs through a brief history of CEC actions (and others) on the subject subject, and it pretty damning for a PBS story. It features Jim Walker, at one time Exec. Director and then later Commissioner at CEC. I was there at the time.

2 Ray { 03.15.13 at 9:29 am }

Currently all wind capturing techniques are turbine to wind. My concept is wind to turbine via the use of ripstop nylon
windsocks, with a flat ripstop nylon hose attached to the tails.

Route the wind to turbines, mounted on the ground. The windsocks could also be mounted under an airfoil, lifted in place by helium balloons, for high altitude wind capture.

This will prevent bird deaths!

This technique is much faster, cheaper, and safer than anything currently used or proposed.

3 Drewski { 03.15.13 at 10:06 am }

Unfortunately, wind channels such as Altamont are flight paths for some species of birds. But, to put it in perspective, the mortality of all birds from wind turbines is tens of thousands of times less than by ordinary house windows or power lines. And that is still a magnitude lower than by death from feral cats.

Perhaps we should look at repositioning turbines that threaten endangered species but, if it is simply bird deaths in general that concerns you, then we should stop putting windows in houses.

4 rbradley { 03.15.13 at 10:21 am }

What if we simply substituted windpower for ANWR in this quotation:

“The simple fact is, drilling is inherently incompatible with wilderness. The roar alone—of road-building, trucks, drilling and generators—would pollute the wild music of the Arctic [National Wildlife Refuge] and be as out of place there as it would be in the heart of Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon.”

- Jimmy Carter, “Make This Natural Treasure a National Monument,” New York Times (December 29, 2000, p. A23.

5 Jon Boone { 03.15.13 at 10:43 am }

Several comments about this post should be cause for despair about our common intellectual integrity. Repositioning wind turbines to mitigate the threat to endangered birds is akin to building larger closets for the emperor with no clothes. And the Rube Goldberg idea of high altitude wind capture seems an engineer’s grotesque idea for make work; fact is that the energy (fuel) density of the wind can never be converted to modern power. Belief that it can do so has no basis in reality. And the reality is:

All the incivility and environmental treachery (only some of which has been described here) is done in the name of energy delusion. What is really horrible is that all this “sacrifice” is done to promote tax shelters (which is the only functional thing wind generates) so the rich can get richer and Big Energy, including fossil fuels, can grow fatter.

6 Drewski { 03.15.13 at 11:12 am }

What is your point?

7 rbradley { 03.15.13 at 11:41 am }

DC environmental groups (versus the grassroots) don’t seem to care about massive wind turbines despoiling the wilds. ‘A machine in every pristine’ is quite a price to pay for being anti-fossil fuels.

8 Jim Wiegand { 03.15.13 at 11:51 am }

All the arguments comparing buildings, power lines, cats, buildings windows etc to wind turbine mortality is nothing but shameless finger pointing. It is like comparing the somewhat random mortality caused by of cancer to the very deliberate deaths of high ranking individuals caused by a terrorist act. Since cancer takes so many more lives, should we dismiss the terrorist? Never, and we should also never dismiss the wind industry for their deliberate underhanded avian slaughter to rare species.

Deflective comments are completely meaningless diversion from the reality of the ongoing wind turbine genocide. Not one of these deflective factors or all of them together will cause the extinction of species and decimate bird and bat populations across the world. The propeller style wind turbine is doing all of this.

But proponents consider climate change to be their ultimate trump card in the argument for these turbines. I hear fools from the Sierra Club and other organizations claim that looming climate change will be killing far more than turbines. I do not care who is selling it, it is still a sick diversion from the turbine slaughter.

The reality is that a billion turbines can never alter a climate that has been altered by deforestation and soil erosion. Europe is already choked with turbines. How has that helped climate? It will be still no different if North America is saturated with turbines. The forests and soil will still have to be regenerated and these disgusting turbines will still never be able to power society.

9 Peter Moliterno { 03.15.13 at 12:14 pm }


My housecat was a great hunter and brought much live prey into our house through his Door. Once he even brought a live woodcock through the door and up the basement stairs and presented it to me. I do not believe that any feral cat has ever killed a raptor. And I don’t believe any studies that claim that fixed power lines are a significant source of avian mortality. Birds do just fine not flying into trees and other towers

10 JohnInMA { 03.15.13 at 12:17 pm }

As poster Ray indicates and as the article’s link to a website highlighting FloDesign’s technology shows, there are an increasing number of flow-enhanced approaches to wind turbine construction that have secondary benefits in protecting birds. I’m not sure if Ray’s windsock idea has been tested, but I recall reading in the past with some other ‘vortex’ based derivatives – funneling wind energy towards a turbine if you will – were thought to increase risks of fatalities. However, it seems easy to test and it also shouldn’t dissuade designers from continuing the focus.

And it seems to me as someone who isn’t as directly engaged as Mr. Wiegand in the study of protecting birds across the spectrum, that there have been concerted efforts by a number of organizations to cooperate with the wind industry and facilitate the selection of sites least damaging to bird populations. In a quick Bing search, this came up in the top three, so surely it is easy for wind project leaders to find partners.

But if the manipulative and deceitful efforts continue to prevent authentic fact finding and worse to hide the true facts, while NOT cooperating at least in design and siting considerations, I don’t see how this cannot possible catch up with the industry as a whole and eventually damage its reputation significantly.

I live in a part of the country where reason and truth finally overcame the near-religious zealotry of green energy, and a turbine in Falmouth, MA, is likely going to be decommissioned. That the town is even investigating its path to minimize the financial damage from the ‘investment’ is a big deal, even if a final decision is pending.

Yes, the resistance is based on noise and not endangering birds. But, it is still a watershed event that any environmental concern overpowers the other ‘green’ motivators in a state like MA.

11 Ray { 03.15.13 at 3:50 pm }


Put bird netting over the windsock’s aperture to prevent birds from entering the windsock’s funnel.

12 Kenneth Haapala { 03.16.13 at 12:24 pm }

During the year immediately following the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, Fish & Wildlife collections produced 2303 dead birds, with visible oil. It is becoming clear that for birds, wind power is a far greater disaster.]

13 JohnInMA { 03.16.13 at 12:28 pm }

ttanton: I finally took some time to view the KQED piece you linked. Just a comment (not intended to start a debate): I was surprised to find it is a 2007 era effort, but not surprised that it impressed me as being favorable for the most part in its tone. Even though it allows the statement from the ecologist that the current theoretical target reductions is still short, you are left thinking the developers and the state commission are doing everything possible to ameliorate the problem they essentially had no understanding of in the earliest days. How innocent……

But more important – do you know if KQED ever followed up or if other organizations have been tracking the progress and producing pieces for the public? I searched the station’s site and found more modern articles, including a reference to Todd Woody (Forbes) who has been pretty honest in his reporting of avian issues and wind turbines over time. At least in my opinion. And they made brief reference to Atlamont in a very short mention of plans for Tehachapi. But I didn’t find any further in depth look at Altamont. Given what we know and the points made by Mr. Wiegand, I get very curious how those who I expect to be hyper-tolerant of the wind farm owners are really handling the situation. For example, my suspicions are confirmed when I find in one brief 2011 article in KQED’s climate watch blog, this statement is allowed and essentially unchallenged: “The Audubon statement concedes that newer turbine designs are becoming more bird-friendly, and finds climate change a bigger threat to avian critters in the long run…”. Back to my ‘greater good’ supposition.

14 Jon Boone { 03.16.13 at 7:20 pm }

Or, JohnNMA, Audubon is cynically using the wind mess as an avatar for ameliorating the greater good of arresting climate change (read: human induced catastrophic worldwide warming because of our evil-doing modernist ways) in order to bring in more funding and increase its membership of well meaning but scientifically illiterate people. Note how its membership campaigns target affluent suburbia and cities; it’s not the first time that the majority has exploited the minority (in this case, rural America) to make a buck. Few marks are as receptive to self flagellating energy policy as those residing in suburbia, particularly if it is someone else getting flagellated.

That Audubon sanctifies wind-induced bird mortality on the basis of a belief that wind technology can mitigate climate is a horse of one color, the reality that the organization is literally selling out its founding principles notwithstanding. That intelligent people, with even a glimmer of exposure to basic history, science, and the history of technology, could defer to such an “authority” is a horse of quite another color. Even a little thought should reveal that millions of wind machines not only couldn’t dent a climate grape but they would also cripple any system of delivering secure, reliable, affordably abundant electricity. Perhaps you’d find my paper on wind and The Sierra club instructive: http://www.stopillwind.org/lowerlevel.php?content=SierraClubWindSupport.

Reasonable–reasoning–people, those who value critical thinking, should target Audubon and its ilk by chanting, with Chubby Checker: “How low can you go….”

15 JohnInMA { 03.17.13 at 1:37 pm }

Jon Boone: We probably agree that Audubon and some sister organizations’ hypocrisy seems rooted in something less altruistic than their original mission. While it might not be the purest form of greed, it would be hard for them to deny it is a financial choice like you describe versus a pure ‘belief’ choice driven by their protection goals. An infinitely more credible position would be to follow up the decision (statement I copied) with an equally strong push on the wind industry to do everything possible to address avian mortality. If they do, it’s not very obvious to me. Rather, it seems they find it acceptable.

But I would take exception to your other post in this thread. I find most of the ‘renewable’ energy technologies to have varying degrees of merit even considering the non-optimum aspects of energy density, firm capacity, true costs, etc. It’s the faux-urgency and the political machinations to place the technologies in situations where they don’t fit that is the basic problem. Rather than pressure for appropriate development to ameliorate the problems, the ‘green’, ‘clean’, and ‘sustainable’ advocates lobby to simply subsidize current art and therefore essentially lock progress, or significantly slow it down. Subsidizing PV in NJ, e.g.??? But without going into too much detail in this post, my basic position is there is a fit for deriving energy from what is essentially ‘eternally available’ fuel sources. A few examples: Caribbean islands and Hawaii may be better candidates for wind energy systems to alleviate some – not all – dependency on fuel transportation (since the sources are exclusively offshore). Integrating PV generation capability into building materials, especially if such applications add other benefits or features that are purchased anyway (appearance, insulating, etc.), may be well suited for certain regions. Even adding PV generating capability to cover existing structures (e.g. parking decks) may eventually make more economic sense. But the dependencies to force more rapid development are ignored (by offsetting real costs, excusing avian mortality, etc.) while Trojan horses of various catastrophic climate projections are used as to obscure and force something unnatural. The natural course could be that the Southeast can only support, say, 5% penetration of various sources, while the desert Southwest might support 10%, all at current cost and performance capabilities (numbers are hypothetical). Instead, wrong-headed groups and ‘scientists’ are pushing the unnatural course and essentially creating a polar world – either you are for a “clean/sustainable/liveable/etc.” planet or you are against it. Foolish.

Already we have an energy mix across a spectrum of costs (real), risks (assumed costs – e.g. radiation exposure), energy density, and performance (fit into the grid – e.g. ramping, response, reserves, etc.). So, for me, there is no reason to think energy from another abundant fuel source like wind or solar, or perhaps geothermal, doesn’t have a natural fit that evolves with technology (capability). I’m not some idealist. I realize that there will always be some twiddling by well-meaning individuals and groups, especially politicians. So the energy mix may never be truly natural from an economic and performance sense. But when people become irrational and religious about it, all the while profiting (Gore anyone?), the challenges are greater than usual/normal to resist and expect the technologies to find a more innate course.

16 MarkB { 03.17.13 at 5:34 pm }

Please note that off-shore wind farms like Cape Wind – sitting right in a major migratory pathway – will kill birds out of site, out of mind. Those birds will never be counted.

17 Jon Boone { 03.17.13 at 8:07 pm }

I couldn’t disagree with you more. The people who run Audubon and The Sierra Club these days really don’t know a bat from a bowtie–and they know even less about energy production. It is the height of environmental cognitive dissonance to support wind technology in the way they do. Defend these jackals as you will. But I know them up close and personal–and find their behaviors appalling. All of us suffer from confirmation bias to some extent, but the best try to reduce it to the minimum. These guys attempt to get their way by bullying and threatening their membership. Again, do read the paper I suggested.

As to your other point: nonsense. In a world that demands precision meshing of highly interconnected machinery–in time and space, fuel density is an absolute must for producing modern power. Entangling machines hitched up to wind and solar energies, which are so diffuse that they couldn’t really serve the needs of society in 1820, let alone today, with high precision machines producing modern power is, if not a craven exercise, surely one engaged by the foolish. Again, why not, under your big energy tent, try to convince others that gliders are a great idea to complement commercial aviation? And sailing craft could be a profitable commercial venture on the high seas, no? (No!) Because so few people understand the nature of electricity production at scale, any huckster can seek rent with a crackpot idea.

Peddle your musings elsewhere.

Yes, there’s lots of wind and solar energy, to be sure, just as there are a trillion dollars worth of small diamonds embedded near the earth’s surface. Problem is that it would take trillions of dollars to extract them. But even this is too generous concept for the likes of wind and solar technology (which I’ll concede one day may have better local applications–but never anything at scale). Because of the nature of their fuel, tail-wagging-the-dog wind and solar machines cannot convert that fuel to modern power.

As you consider this, string together how energy relates to power, and how power relates to productivity. And how productivity relates to modernity. And how modernity relates to–is dependent upon–incredibly blended machines that are instantly controllable. Any pairing of controllable, dispatchable machines with those that can only produce, unpredictably, highly variable energy in the hopes of generating modern power will result in higher cost and much greater inefficiency, even though the former machines will do all the important work.

18 DDB { 03.17.13 at 9:55 pm }

I recently read that cats, especially feral carts, kill over one BILLION birds annually in the US. Do you trust this value, and if so, should cats also be restricted?

19 JohnInMA { 03.17.13 at 10:54 pm }

MarkB: Birds killed by offshore systems are much more difficult to discover, unless there is some real time sampling or observations. Already some environmental groups are searching for ways to rationalize a position to ‘like’ offshore wind. The most recent example I’ve found is from Friends of the Earth in the UK. Here is a link to the report (just an FYI – it links directly to the PDF):

Best summary (my words): They are an organization who in their priorities, lists first “Waking the world up to climate change.” The incomplete nature of data collection is repeated often. Some rationalizing and theorizing suggests a number of species may divert their flight path (as has been witnessed – at best an anecdote) while others may skim the water. They are at least frank that there is a potential for harm, and “caution” in siting and design (e.g. turbine count) must be used. But they are clearly setting the foundation for excusing bird deaths for the ‘greater good’ should they eventually find a way to live with it.

20 Mary Kay Barton { 03.18.13 at 10:18 am }

Cats, houses and cars do NOT kill eagles – industrial wind turbines do!

I live in Western New York State – the site of several Industrial Wind Factories, totaling 250 industrial turbines. We have a VERY healthy coyote population – not to mention turkey vultures, wild cats & dogs, hawks, crows, bears etc. MOST of the turbine blade-slaughtered birds & bats are NEVER found.

When it comes to the needless bird slaughter caused by these giant “Bird Cuisinarts,” the double-standard of penalties NOT imposed on the wind industry is clear. Likewise, the hypocrisy on display by organizations like Audubon (who I used to be a member of) and the Sierra Club is clear – It’s now “all about the money.”

While I find the free pass that the wind industry has been given to slaughter birds and bats infuriating and inexplicable, I find it even more infuriating that the rural residents and towns being negatively affected — whose quality of life and property values are being trashed in the name of going “green’ — continue to be totally ignored by all the stuffed shirts pushing this “green” garbage on rural America.

When the Leaders of Audubon (http://www.audubon.org/audubon-leaders), Sierra Club Officials (http://www.sierraclub.org/bod/meet-the-board/), and Wind Industry political cronies like – Chuck Grassley, John McCain, and all their cohorts – give up their mansions to move into a home within the massive sprawling footprint of an industrial wind factory (with dozens of towering, infrasound-emitting machines surrounding them only hundreds of feet from the foundations of their homes) then perhaps their blustering support of the wind industry would be credible. Until then, it’s obvious they are all just Big Blowhards on the Big Money Trail.

21 Mary Kay Barton { 03.18.13 at 10:25 am }

As I cited in a previous article here on Master Resource – “NYS Money Road to Nowhere” (http://www.masterresource.org/2012/08/local-wind-subsidies-more-waste-new-york-states-money-road-to-nowhere/):

“Special political favor at the local, state, and federal levels have created an artificial industry: industrial windpower. Massive turbines have resulted in negative ecological and economic effects. Rural towns and countryside across the USA have become the dumping grounds for massive infrastructure producing a paltry amount of remote, unreliable energy.

For many enjoying rural life, in particular, an invasion by industrial wind installations has turned environmentalism on its head.

“On a per kWh basis, wind receives 80 times the public subsidies received by fossil fuels, but produces no reliable electricity capacity and very few American jobs. In fact, for every green job that wind supposedly creates, it destroys two to four regular jobs – in large part due to “skyrocketing” electricity rates.”

Beyond all the “green” energy pie-in-the-sky promises that morally-bankrupt wind salesmen or Crony-Corruptocrats may offer in the name of The Wind Farm Scam, the incivility of throwing up scores of useless machines (they would be considered lemons if they were any other sort of modern machine or appliance) is a sad testimony about how cheaply people’s values can be bought, and how little many care for the welfare of their neighbors.”

22 Jim Wiegand { 03.18.13 at 10:41 am }

The Lies About Cats
There is really no sensible comparison between the birds eaten by cats and the slaughter caused by wind turbines. The cat vs. turbine debate was created by wind industry shills for the purpose of hiding a terrible mortality problem associated with wind turbines.

I have decades of wildlife observations in the field and this is the way it is; cats in remote locations are eaten and killed by the native species. With bobcats, coyotes, Mt lions, and eagles around cats do not have a chance. In all my years with many thousands of hours of wilderness observations in remote locations, I have never seen one feral cat, EVER. But I have seen plenty of these cat killers and cats that wander too far from the safety of communities disappear. So not only can these species easily kill a cat, they can out-compete them with their survival skills.

The primary bird problem with cats is in their association with people. Even then the feral cats depend on people and communities. This is where they find their food and shelter away from these other species. This is also where they do their damage to birds and it can be significant. But these cats do not primarily eat birds. They will eat mice, rats, large insects, forage at dumps, trash bins, and even steal left over dog food from back yards. They also eat bird species which are strongly associated with people, those being English sparrows, pigeons, and starlings. A feral cat’s diet is in no way a threat or problem with most of the specialized species being chopped up by turbines. There is another factor in all of this besides these other species that eat feral cats, have territories. They may be in the range of 5-10 square miles or even a hundred with a Mt. lion. By comparison in 5 square mile area around a community you can expect up to several thousand feral cats and house cats.

Cats are not slaughtering every indigenous bird species birds in their remote locations. House cats and feral cats in remote locations are not slaughtering off eagles, cranes, geese, and every other species that flies. It is the wind turbines.

23 JohnInMA { 03.18.13 at 11:36 am }

Jon Boone: I don’t “peddle” anything. I’m pretty surprised to see an emotional rant here, but, then, I have only recently become aware of the site’s existence. And unless you are some site monitor who can ban me, I’ll continue to participate against your hopes. I apologize in advance if that angers you.

I’m fully aware of complex concepts as they relate to energy, power, and networks. I work in the industry. I suggest you read my words more carefully. There isn’t a proposal to directly “entangle” machines and windmills or solar panels. Power grids/networks are complex systems, stochastic (random) in nature, requiring somewhat sophisticated control to ensure adequate power quality/supply. Adding additional, variable ‘power’ from ‘energy’ sources like wind or solar has proven to be feasible without a costly or technically involved rework of the control schemes. Sure, there is a push for more efficient controls, including Smart Grids, etc. That’s a separate topic. Management of the most elemental and critical features like reactive power and frequency is not negatively impacted at appropriate levels of wind and solar penetration. You cannot extrapolate those realities to some hypothetical future of 100% power provision from wind or solar, as I assume you do in your response. And I did not propose that future.

But I agree that you are right in this: The challenge for the wind and solar industry must be economic feasibility in a world powered by nuclear and fossil fuels. Too many of the “well meaning” scientists and political operatives (non-profits especially) are willing to dismiss or discount that necessity, in fact suggesting that higher cost power is a beneficial outcome as long as it corresponds to other goals (carbon reduction, reducing energy demand, etc.). There are even some who speculate that by forcing (mandating) artificially set amounts of wind and solar energy, appropriate efficiency will necessarily follow. To be clear, I am not in those camps. I’m in this camp: The one that sees a role, or ‘natural fit’ as I said earlier, for an evolving portion of power from wind and solar. The natural fit might be quite low for some time. The dependencies are more obvious when not distorted by those who have a vested interest in the sale and installation of those systems, to start.

I am also one of ‘those people’ who see the value of nuclear energy even though it suffers from some of the same issues, at differing degrees, as wind and solar while offering other benefits. After years, current technology has yet to reach cost parity with other sources, for one example. But it is not a reason to stop evolving the technology. Same with wind and solar. We simply disagree, it seems.

24 Jon Boone { 03.18.13 at 3:27 pm }

I’ve been at this for more than a decade. Early on, I was patient with folks who, in their well meaning but BSing ways attempted to defend the renewables du jour. But I’m no longer patient with those who bluster with pretension on subjects they really know nothing about. And I get curdled by folks who seek to defend the likes of mainline environmental organizations and their oafish energy policy prescriptions: their behavior is not simply boorish because it’s so demonstrably daffy and dysfunctional; rather, it’s menacing because it supports uncivil, environmentally treacherous technology that threatens the basic fabric of society and subverts much I hold dear, including intellectual integrity.

If you want to be brought up to speed about what I’ve done on this blog, particularly in the context of supporting the cause of capacity generation for electricity and as a strong endorser of nuclear technology, I suggest the following: http://www.masterresource.org/2012/01/tuckers-terrestrialism-modernity–and http://www.masterresource.org/2011/01/wind-howlers-part-i/. For more, see: http://www.stopillwind.org.

What I find problematic about your stance on renewables is this statement: “So, for me, there is no reason to think energy from another abundant fuel source like wind or solar, or perhaps geothermal, doesn’t have a natural fit that evolves with technology (capability).” As if there aren’t many reason for you to think so, like their energy density. As if all energy sources somehow are acceptable in some large technology tent (this is precisely how AWEA markets its product, allowing the public to infer that wind is just as respectable as nuclear or any effective capacity producer).

Geothermal, of course, represents a proven capacity resource. And where it can be exploited for electricity in an environmentally responsible way, it should be. It’s generally a better resource for heat and heating water. Solar will never be functional at grid scale (attempts to make it seem so by pointing out opportunities in the desert Southwest make me cringe, at a number of levels); however, as I stated, innovation may one day render it a routine technology for traffic control, building materials, and emergency situations in areas with no modern amenities, not to mention advertising billboards.

Where we cross swords utterly is in your casual examples where wind technology might “fit.” Tell that to the good citizens of Molokai with whom I’ve worked and who have been desperately working to keep Goliath Wind from their shores and waters. Tell that to those living in those Caribbean Islands you mention who are concerned about protecting their avifauna and sense of natural beauty. It’s not clear what you mean by recommending wind as a means of shoring up their transportation systems but if it’s yet another lead in to hydrogen storage, that dog won’t hunt here. The gargantuan presence required for such an antediluvian technology should preclude any discussion about it. Hamsters on a wheel would be a better substitute.

If individuals want to take the time, trouble, and expense to place renewable machines, including wind and solar arrays, responsibly on their property, they’d have no problems with me, although I would oppose any use of net metering schemes to “incentivize” such enterprise. If hucksters want to keep wind machines on the public dole for ostensible service–anywhere–to a contemporary electricity grid, then I’ll work to expose them for the bunco they’re committing.

Finally, I’ve worked for some years, quietly, to help those in Massachusetts afflicted by the Falmouth and Cape Wind farragos. Since I have no time for dueling anonymous bloggers, I’ll end my exchange with you here, hoping that on all the important issues of the day we are generally in concord.

25 JohnInMA { 03.19.13 at 10:12 am }

Jon Boone: You continue to post language to say I know nothing about my position, or I’ve somehow innocently or foolishly fallen prey to “BSing” groups supporting the “renewables du jour”. It’s an odd way of dealing with those who disagree, and especially if only on certain points. As if there are only two positions – either pure opposition to all or some Sierra/Greenpeace position. Somehow I’m assigned to be in the Sierra, et al., category. It comes across as more fanatical, bordering on zealotry to me.

I’m not going to pound my chest about my educational and working background. Repeating my last post, be sure I know plenty about energy, power, electricity, and most all aspects of managing the storage, transmission, and distribution of it since starting in the nuclear power industry in the late 70s. I’ve watched the progress in power generation and supply through mistakes and home runs alike. Many mistakes are attributable to policy and twiddling by the same parties (elected officials and various organizations), some just with differening names over time. But one thing is certain: there wouldn’t be any nuclear power at all had the original naysayers won the battle. Plants would have been decommissioned very early and licenses and permits never granted had designers and utilities not persevered and those who opposed it on economic or just hypothetical grounds won (a different group of catastrophe theorists). Capacity factors that now reach 90%, and greater, were almost unthinkable in the late 70s. Yet, even today, nuclear generation is not on par with other fuel sources and could be eliminated if one were only targeting single factors.

Although repetitious, my position that there is some current and future value for wind and solar – natural in the context of market and demand forces – seems weirdly heretical to you. You have no tolerance for it. I see energy density as a limiting factor, you see it as an eliminating factor. I see design requirements, you see impenetrable obstacles. Avian protection is a prime example. Beauty (or disruption of beauty) is one place you win. I can’t argue that or interpret it through an engineer’s eyes. I see ugly buildings that are quite functional, for example. The quickest example I can come up with off the top this morning that reinforces my position, without putting much thought into it, are the words of John Watson, current CEO of Chevron. Picking the most essential lines:

“But despite an abundance of fossil fuels in the world, we realize that given the scale of demand growth, they alone won’t be enough. We’ll also need safe and reliable supplies of nuclear energy. Over time, we’ll need renewables to play an increasing role. And we’ll need to use all forms of energy as efficiently as possible.”

And, “We need a refreshed policy approach that recognizes the value of fossil fuels and allows a market-driven transition to affordable substitutes over time. And I would suggest that only an energy policy with affordability as its central goal has the potential to deliver long-term economic, energy and environmental security”.

So, yes, I find that differing energy sources ARE “acceptable in some large energy tent.” And many who I have worked with, from multi-nationals who build generating systems (fired and un-fired alike), to utilities, to venture capitalists all see potential, most without the goal to rent seek (most, not all).

You probably won’t value any advice from me. Still, consider that your approach almost guarantees few converts. Prepare for a lot more anger and frustration.

Source: http://www.chevron.com/chevron/speeches/article/10192011_theenergyrenaissance.news

26 Jon Boone { 03.19.13 at 12:51 pm }

JIM: Here’s a comment taken from one of my posts on MR last year that should clarify what I think of Chevron and its CEO:

“It is true that federal and state subsidies are excellent revenue enhancers for corporations with a lot of discretionary income to retain through tax avoidance. Companies swaddled in fossil fuels are doing just this—and they are legion, knowing that wind will embellish their fossil fuel market share and can never be an “alternate” energy source, since they can’t provide modern power. Just a glance at the plethora of ecomagination ads for renewables from virtually all the energy giants (among the most galling for me are those from Chevron) should be instructive. Even Areva plays this game.”

Note the oleaginous way Chevron ads give ballast to AWEA and succor to the energy clueless:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ujR9K0cFNBE. Again, if you think renewables like wind and solar belong on an electricity grid, why not as strongly support gliders in the air transport sector? The comparison is apt. Surely they would improve efficiency and boost productivity.

I’m not the only one disgusted by the Romneyesque burlesque involved with the notion of “every little bit helps” and “we must all conserve” in the context of selling renewables tax shelter generation.

27 UzUrBrain { 03.23.13 at 5:22 pm }

Compare the extreme effort taken (and regulatory mandated) by any form of commercial power plant or other industry that extracts large amounts of water from a lake or river (e.g., structures that minimize the flow to a level that even fingerlings can escape, several sequentially separated layers of screening, escape paths, etc., etc.) with the complete utter lack of protection for protection to these bird/bat Cuisinart’s. WHY?

28 UzUrBrain { 03.23.13 at 5:33 pm }

I would also like to add to Jim Wiegand { 03.18.13 at 10:41 am }
I lived on about 100 acres in upstate NY, near Pulaski. I watched one evening as an eagle swooped down and picked up our Lhasa Apso and carried it away from our back yard while it was squatting to do it’s business. It maneuvered quite easily past the power line that was in its path. I don’t think a cat will last very long in the wild.

29 Jim Wiegand { 03.23.13 at 6:26 pm }

I must say the most of the comments are very good and people seem to be very interested this information. Knowing about the slaughter of wildlife and habitat destruction by the wind industry should rally the people, especially people that understand the value of these species. But take it from me; the people behind this industry could care less. Look at what the industry and agencies have done to the whooping cranes, condors, eagles not to mention the poor people that have to live near these monsters. There are problems with all of this that go far beyond these turbines that people need to become aware of. The world you thought you knew and the world portrayed by your leaders, is DEAD.

I am going to present some additional wind industry information from Europe because people in North America have no idea how many thousands of turbines have been installed over there. Think about it and ask yourself, What has improved for them? The countries that produce these beasts have fat bank accounts but what has really been the benefit to the people or the world?
I can tell you thousands of golden eagles that once lived in Scandinavia are missing. They disappeared after the wind energy boom in Europe. These eagles had to migrate in the winter months to survive where they were met with an onslaught of turbines that were constructed in their winter habitat.
The industry knew all about it because they were finding the bodies. In an effort to hide the genocide the EU LIFE Environment Program which is backed by European financial institutions and the wind industry, paid for a 2008 study called “Territory occupancy and breeding success of the Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) around tourist destinations in northern Finland”. If you can find this study, copy it and show your friends. Show them what now passes as science in this world. It is one of the worst studies ever produced.
According to this study, tourism (snowmobiles and skiers) were the likely cause for the golden eagle habitat abandonment in Finland. What is amazing (or disgusting) about the study is that no direct evidence was ever provided but it would have been very easy to get with a couple of fly-overs. In other words no footprints, ski trails, or snowmobile tracks were ever shown to be near any active or abandoned nests. The eagles begin nesting in March and a blanket of snow stays on the ground into May. Ariel photos and observations of human activity would have been critical to this study. Yet none were provided.

When dealing with the wind industry this is what everybody has to put up with. Layers of corruption that are so deep you almost need to bulldoze everything and start over. At the root of the problem are corporate profits and a system that rewards these companies for their path of destruction.

30 David Shows { 03.26.13 at 12:32 pm }

Thank you for your investigation and comments everyone. I’ve been suspicious of wind as an environmental cure, not because of these but also the rare elements used in the production of magnets. I’m a believer that the facts eventually will win out, and it will happen because of discussion like the ones here.

31 Wind Turbine Syndrome | Wind energy’s government-approved wildlife genocide { 09.04.13 at 2:29 pm }

[...] own previous articles (here and here) strongly suggest that these conclusions are [...]

32 Hiding the wind turbine bird slaughter: Part 2 – The 48-hour study | Wind Turbine Wildlife Hell { 09.18.13 at 5:26 pm }

[...] Go to Jim Wiegand’s original article on MasterResource.org [...]

33 Remembering the 1973 Arab Oil Embargo | Maggie's Notebook { 09.29.13 at 9:01 am }

[...] acknowledge the land, raw material and wildlife impacts of wind and solar power, or even require an honest accounting of how many birds and bats wind turbines slaughter each year. Even as (or because) fracking proves [...]

34 Putting politics above people over petroleum power { 09.29.13 at 12:16 pm }

[...] acknowledge the land, raw material and wildlife impacts of wind and solar power, or even require an honest accounting of how many birds and bats wind turbines slaughter each year. Even as (or because) fracking proves [...]

35 Remembering the 1973 Arab oil embargo { 09.30.13 at 8:50 am }

[...] acknowledge the land, raw material and wildlife impacts of wind and solar power, or even require an honest accounting of how many birds and bats wind turbines slaughter each year. Even as (or because) fracking proves [...]

36 Remembering the 1973 Arab oil embargo | The Moral Liberal { 09.30.13 at 2:17 pm }

[...] acknowledge the land, raw material and wildlife impacts of wind and solar power, or even require an honest accounting of how many birds and bats wind turbines slaughter each year. Even as (or because) fracking proves [...]

37 Remembering the 1973 Arab oil embargo - Capitol Hill Outsider { 09.30.13 at 4:51 pm }

[...] acknowledge the land, raw material and wildlife impacts of wind and solar power, or even require an honest accounting of how many birds and bats wind turbines slaughter each year. Even as (or because) fracking proves [...]

38 Remembering the 1973 Arab Oil Embargo | Somewhat Reasonable { 10.01.13 at 9:01 am }

[...] the land, raw material and wildlife impacts of wind and solar power, or even require an honest accounting of how many birds and bats wind turbines slaughter each year. Even as (or [...]

39 CFACT Takes EPA To U.S. Supreme Court: EPA Emissions Rules Violate Constitution’s Separation Of Powers ~ Contrived Rules Are Harmful, Arbitrary, Capricious And Fraudulent. | Political Vel Craft { 12.26.13 at 9:05 pm }

[...] 16 Meera Subramanian, “The trouble with turbines: An ill wind,” Nature, June 20, 2012; American Bird Conservancy, “Bird deaths from wind farms to continue under new federal voluntary industry guidelines,” http://www.abcbirds.org/newsandreports/releases/ 110208.html; Paul Driessen, “Big Wind tax credit exterminates bird species: Thousands of birds killed by wind turbines,” Washington Times, December 22, 2012, http://www.washington times.com/news/2012/dec/22/big-wind-tax-credit-exterminates- endangered-specie/?page=all; Jim Wiegand, “Big Wind and avian mortality: Hiding the problem,” March 15, 2013, http://www.masterresource.org/2013/03/wind-avian-mortality-ii/ [...]

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