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Windfarm Mortality: Environmental Disinformation, Ecodamage

“Put simply, wind farms are causing considerable damage to nature’s balance, for no benefit whatsoever to society. Indeed, no country in the world has reduced its carbon footprint thanks to them…. It is high time to call a moratorium on wind farms, and examine the situation after ditching our blinkers.”

Wind turbines kill birds and bats, we all know that, but the billion-dollar question is: how many? I say “billion” because subsidies to the wind industry run into billions of dollars per year in the United States alone, and chances are the public would not support such expenditures if they found out that these machines were driving iconic, useful or beautiful species into extinction. It is therefore important to find out the extent of the mortality caused by their rotor blades and high tension power lines.

In a paper presented in 2009 at the Fourth International Partners in Flight Conference,  U.S. Fish & Wildlife Biologist Dr. Albert M. Manville wrote: “While the wind industry currently estimates that turbines kill 58 000 birds per year in the U.S. … the Service estimates annual mortality at 440 000 birds.” (1) This created quite a stir, and the wind industry tried hard to fight this estimate ever since.

Three years later, consultant biologist Dr. Shawn Smallwood came up with his own estimate in the March 2013 issue of the peer-reviewed Wildlife Society Bulletin: “I estimated 888,000 bat and 573,000 bird fatalities/year (including 83,000 raptor fatalities) at 51,630 megawatt (MW) of installed wind-energy capacity in the United States in 2012.” (2) This prompted Birdwatching Magazine to post on their website: “Smallwood’s number of bird deaths represents a 30 percent jump over the 440,000 fatalities estimated by a 2009 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report” (3). Their counterpart in the UK, Birdwatch, wrote a similar article under the headline: “Wind farm bird deaths more than thought”. (4)

The media, by and large, ignored this politically incorrect news. As for the above bird magazines, they overlooked the fact that the 2012 estimate is based on 51,630 MW of installed windpower capacity, whereas the previous estimate was based on 29,440 MW (1). On a per megawatt basis, the Smallwood estimate is in fact significantly lower than that of the USFWS: 11.1 birds/MW as against 14.9 birds/MW, respectively.

The end result is that the new, reduced estimate turns out to be of great help to the wind industry, which is trying to make believe that their machines have no overall effect on bird populations. Yet, years ago, Dr. Smallwood had found alarming estimates such as 116 golden eagles, 300 red-tailed hawks, 333 American kestrels, 380 burrowing owls, 2,526 rock doves, 2,557 western meadowlarks, etc. being killed yearly by the huge Altamont Pass windfarm (5).

This evolution towards compromise became apparent when the biologist wrote in a study that the repowering of the infamous Altamont Pass windfarm would greatly reduce the number of fatalities: “repowering the APWRA could reduce mean annual fatality rates by 54% for raptors and 65% for all birds, while more than doubling annual wind-energy generation” (6). His accommodating conclusions were helpful to the industry, and this deadliest of all windfarms has been granted permission to be repowered: it will be killing golden eagles, other raptors, etc. for another 25 years.

According to U.S. raptor specialist Jim Wiegand, mortality may in fact double at Altamont as a result, regardless of the lower number of turbines, because much more air space will be swept overall by the much longer blades. Fewer golden eagles (GE) may be killed, however, but only because their numbers have plummeted in California, largely due to mortality at wind farms. The GE population decline is the object of a cover-up, as is that of the Whooping Crane in the Great Plains. Nothing that may hurt the expansion plans of the wind industry is considered politically correct: it is thus being hushed, and surveys are being manipulated (7). Politicians have an interest in the prosperity of this industry, which is an important contributor to election campaigns funds (8), it is also a provider of golden parachutes – in Spain, just to name a couple, ex-Presidents Felipe González and José Maria Aznar now have “jobs” as advisors to companies with a sizeable wind energy portfolio: Gas Natural Fenosa and Endesa, respectively (9).

Despite all this, the truth has resurfaced in Europe, after 20-years of being brushed under the carpet. Last year, it was estimated by the Spanish bird society SEO/Birdlife that Spain’s 18,000 wind turbines are killing 6 to 18 million birds & bats a year. This range is congruent with earlier estimates from Germany and Sweden, mentioned by the California Energy Commission (10). Extrapolating the Birdlife estimates, for 39,000 wind turbines in operation in the US we would obtain 13 to 39 million birds and bats every year (11). Many of these deaths are of iconic raptors, beautiful cranes, and extremely useful bats, most of them protected species. By contrast, cats, cars and windows kill mostly common birds.

Birds and bats aren’t smarter in the U.S. than they are in Europe, thus we may reasonably infer that published, politically-correct mortality estimates in the US are shy of reality by more than one order of magnitude (ten times). To understand the causes of the massacre that is taking place, one needs to realize that bats are attracted to windfarms from sometimes as far as 14 km, as discovered by Professor Ingemar Ahlén in Sweden (12).

Raptors too are attracted, for other reasons:

- scavenging : raptors get close to the turbines looking for birds killed or maimed by the blades;

- abundance of prey: rodents abound under the turbines because they find a suitable food supply (graminae) in the open fields around wind turbines. Some also find it easy to dig burrows in the soil that has been softened by earth-moving equipment;

- wind conditions: this is where the wind blows strongest (hence the presence of turbines). Good wind attracts raptors, as it affords them effortless gliding and take-offs;

- because wind farms are surrounded by land that has been cleared of vegetation, and most raptors are looking for open spaces where they can see their prey and maneuver to grab it.

- perching: wind turbines offer perching sites with commanding views of vast hunting grounds all around, ideal for stalking prey (13);

- curiosity: when the construction phase is over, wildlife that had fled the area comes back, and investigate the new structures on their territory, as they would any new feature;

- a combination of these factors.

Finally, swallows, martins, swifts and some other insect eating birds of the Hirundinidae family seem to be attracted as well, probably for the same reason that bats are. This is based on evidence from another study by professor Ahlén, as brought to our attention by Clive Hambler, lecturer in Biological and Human Sciences, Hertford College, University of Oxford (14).

All of the above findings constitute a milestone on the road to understanding the effects of wind turbines on wildlife. They clearly tell us that it doesn’t really matter how carefully wind turbines are sited, since these attract birds and bats from miles around, and kill a great many – much more than is commonly admitted by governments and industry, and by yes-men consultants that are working for them. Wind turbines are thus acting as population sinks, and will cause unfathomable damage to the natural balance between winged predators and prey. The disappearance of bats and hirundines would among other things cause farmers to use more insecticides, and this in turn would affect our health, the price of food, and other insect-eating birds and raptors which prey on them. As for wind turbines killing raptors, they are helping rodents to become a plague, also affecting crops and food prices.

Put it simply, wind farms are causing considerable damage to nature’s balance, for no benefit whatsoever to society. Indeed, no country in the world has reduced its carbon footprint thanks to them. And here is a sobering thought: the price of electricity for households in highly-turbinized Denmark and Germany is over $0.34 (US) per kWh, and still going up as many more wind turbines are to be installed. In the U.S., the price is 12 cents per kWh.

It is high time to call a moratorium on wind farms, and examine the situation after ditching our blinkers.

References:

(1) -  http://www.partnersinflight.org/pubs/mcallenproc/articles/pif09_anthropogenic%20impacts/manville_pif09.pdf

(2) – http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/wsb.260/abstract

(3) – www.birdwatchingdaily.com/blog/2013/07/17/new-study-estimates-573000-birds-died-at-wind-farms-last-year/

(4) – http://www.birdwatch.co.uk/channel/newsitem.asp?c=11&cate=__14606

(5) – http://www.altamontsrc.org/alt_doc/cec_final_report_08_11_04.pdf, Page 73, Table 3-11, last column “adjusted for search detection and scavenging”.

(6) – http://www.bioone.org/doi/abs/10.2193/2008-464

(7) – http://savetheeaglesinternational.org/new/whooping-cranes-decimated-by-windfarms.html

(8) – http://www.epaw.org/multimedia.php?article=in9

(9) – http://www.eldiario.es/sociedad/Boda-Rajoy-Aznar-Felipe-Gonzalez_0_139986186.html

(10) – http://savetheeaglesinternational.org/releases/spanish-wind-farms-kill-6-to-18-million-birds-bats-a-year.html

(11) – http://m.townhall.com/columnists/pauldriessen/2012 /12/15/stop-subsidizing-the-slaughter-n1467370

(12) – http://wcfn.org/2013/07/24/biodiversity-alert/

(13) – http://savetheeagles.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/raptors-attracted-to-windfarms-2/

(14) – http://wcfn.org/2013/07/01/tip-of-the-iceberg/

—————

Mark Duchamp is Executive Director of European Platform Against Windpower; President, Save the Eagles International ; and Chairman, World Council for Nature.

14 comments

1 Mark Duchamp { 09.27.13 at 6:07 am }

There is something new and very disturbing in this article: windfarms ATTRACT bats, raptors and hirundines from miles around. And as these fly close to the turbines, many are killed by the blades which move at up to 200 mph at the tip.

The consequence is that surveys to map where birds and bats fly, so that wind turbines are placed where they won’t interfere, are useless. They will interfere ANYWHERE they are sited.
They will act as ecological traps and wipe out entire species, causing grave unbalances in nature. This, in turn, will have dire consequences on human health (increased use of pesticides, plagues of rodents, spread of diseases).

2 Donna Davidge { 09.27.13 at 11:03 am }

A little knowledge that acts is worth infinitely more than much knowledge that is idle.

Posted on my FB page and will share on Maine wind concerns as well..
thank you so much!

3 Catherine Bayne { 09.27.13 at 4:20 pm }

Apparently Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment accepts that industrial wind developments will simply “mitigate” the predictable bat mortality through changing cut-in speeds and migratory period shutdown. Even the Environmental Review Tribunal in the Ostrander Point decision relied on the MNR and Developer to monitor and mitigate.

The Bow Lake Project will plant IWT in a minimally impacted forest/wetland complex where 7 of the 8 species of bats in Ontario are present in good numbers and where more will be drawn in from the surrounding sustainably harvested Algoma Forest.

4 Shellie Correia { 09.27.13 at 7:26 pm }

Please, please please. We need people to monitor the blade path of these wind turbines, especially the ones in important birding areas. People who have homes or other buildings near the turbines, could have 24 hr. surveillance cameras set up, to monitor the deaths accurately. Infrared, and a zoom lens will give the bat deaths, and birds after dusk as well. Community fundraisers could be held to pay for the equipment, and people could volunteer to maintain the system. Our only chance to get the truth, is to do it ourselves.

5 Mark Duchamp { 09.27.13 at 9:58 pm }

Mitigation is the opposite of the precautionary principle. It’s equivalent to the famous “shoot first, ask questions later”.

6 Mark Duchamp { 09.27.13 at 10:03 pm }

Yes indeed, Shellie, we need to do our own monitoring. That which is done by consultants paid by windfarm owners can’t be trusted.
Any volunteers?

7 Shellie Correia { 09.28.13 at 7:45 pm }

I am going to make sure it is done in my area, and I hope there are many more that understand how critical it is to get an honest picture of what is going on. It won’t be that difficult, and is well worth the effort!

8 MaryInMN { 09.30.13 at 10:53 am }

Well done, Mark. Information on bats being attracted to turbines is not; however, new. The USGS and Bat Conservation International have written about this for several years, and USFWS biologists with boots on the ground have expressed grave concerns about the damage industrial wind can, and does, do to ecosystems. The go-to justification for the carnage and ecological imbalance is “global climate change will kill them anyway so it doesn’t really matter.” I am fully aware that to call the global climate change crowd out on the carpet is to risk pointed fingers and cries of “SCIENCE DENIER”. Shakespeare’s oft quoted, “Me thinks thou dost protest too much,” comes to mind as the truth is that there is absolutely no science informing the permitting or siting of industrial wind: surveyors admit it is political. AWEA’s David Ward often pops up in national articles related to wildlife impacts claiming, “No one cares more about adverse wildlife impacts than the wind industry,” a lie betrayed by the language in their own policy documents, which advocate for slaughter of the California Condor in order to “bring certainty to developers and investors.” One of the best places to search for speeches and documentation explaining the phenomenon of the global green revolution is UNESCO, with a start date of 1991, moving forward and/or backward through the links that are provided. This is a political manipulation masquerading as an environmental cause. Global governance is the goal: top-down, lock-step control. Global climate change is the terror assaulting the psyche of people around the globe or the agenda being taught in schools, that allows the agenda to push forward. The American public is particularly susceptible to being duped because we believe fiercely in the myth that our government means well, cares about us as individuals and acts accordingly. Chief Joseph summed it up in two words: “They lied.” These truths, which are hiding in plain sight, explain why bureaucrats, politicians, corporate talking heads and Wall Street banksters are able to openly lie, cheat, steal and carry on with all manner of unsavory business: some are ignorant, some are greedy and daft, some hope for a seat at the table that opens the door to more power and prestige. The race is on. In the early 1900′s doctors and midwives performed bloodletting to remove disease from the body. This more-often-than-not was what killed the patient, but in desperation they felt they needed to do something. So it is with the desperation associated with global climate change fear-mongering: we’re ignorantly allowing the bleeding off of the life-blood of the planet (birds/bats/wildlife) in order to cure a disease we do not understand but in desperation want to “fix” at any cost.

9 Mark Duchamp { 10.01.13 at 9:04 am }

Yes Mary, but what’s new is that windfarms also attract hirundines and raptors, and that bats are even attracted to offshore windfarms, up to 14 km from shore and perhaps even beyond.

What’s also new is the consequences we must all draw from this: no matter how carefully wind turbines are sited to avoid flight paths (which is a myth anyway), such “flight paths” will be altered after the wind turbines are built as these will ATTRACT bats, hirundines and raptors. They will attract them to their death, thereby acting as population sinks.

The consequence is that there is no safe place to put the turbines, onland or at sea. We are headed for the extinction of bats, hirundines and raptors. We are therefore headed for grave unbalances in nature’s equilibrium: plagues of insects, plagues of rodents, plagues of crows and magpies. Regarding the latter: these birds are controlled by eagles, falcons and hawks. In places where these predators have almost disappeared, e.g. France, you will see lots of crows, and magpies everywhere – even in gardens. And in the Spring these birds feed on the contents of the nests they find. Result: a rapid decline in songbirds.

You wrote: “(windfarms) to cure a disease we do not understand but in desperation want to “fix” at any cost.”
I would have said: “a perceived disease”, and I would have added: wind farms are NOT fit-for-purpose anyway – see http://www.iberica2000.org/Es/Articulo.asp?Id=4540

Thank you anyway for your most interesting comment.

10 Jim Wiegand { 10.04.13 at 10:31 am }

In my opinion many behind this industry belong in jail for their fraud. Excellent article. It belongs on the front page New York times but all of us reading this know exactly why it will not be placed there. I see comments here about surveillance here. With surveillance people should remember that one of the best clips they could hope to could get would be footage of employees scanning around the turbines then hauling away the bodies. Camo gear would be very useful for this. Also knock on doors at homes with a good view . Even homes with a view across water. They are probably sick of the industrial blight, the flicker, the sounds, and would be very happy to help out.

11 Jim Wiegand { 10.04.13 at 10:37 am }

On October 3 I was given a new wind industry mortality study from Hatchet Ridge in Northern Ca. It is in my backyard so to speak.

Quote from the study…………..”Sources of Study Bias”

“Fatality estimates at the Project are calculated based upon search plots being established as 100 percent searchable areas; estimates were not corrected for any area not searched within a search plot. Because these types of corrections are dependent on sample size, these adjustments will not be made annually, but will be accounted for after the full 2-year study. Because there is probability that a carcass could land in the non-searchable area of a search plot and thus not be included in the estimate, fatality estimates presented for the Project likely include a downward bias”.

The bias that exists in this study makes it completely worthless. The actual mortality numbers at Hatchet ridge are many times higher because (1) Estimates were not corrected for any area not searched within a search plot (2) search plots used for the study were more than ten times too small for the large turbines at Hatchet Ridge and the study did calculate this bias into their estimates. The area in which 85% of the carcasses can be expected to be found is 200 meter radius from turbine towers. (3) Searcher efficiency trial studies are unreliable and unrealistic.High searcher efficiency rates, which were factored into estimates are not accurate for the Hatchet Ridge habitat and were used to lower mortality estimates . 4) Search intervals should be 24 and no more than 48 hours. This methodology allows far too much time for scavengers and wind personnel to move bodies. (5) All 43 turbines should have been searched, not just 22.

There is nothing scientific about any of this. As with every other wind industry study I have looked at for their large turbines, I believe they easily missed and under-reported over 90% of the mortality. Like every wind project, from looking at the species mortality list I can see that the mortality footprint for this project reaches several thousand miles. Lastly there is or was a peregrine falcon nest in the canyon area below the Hatchet Ridge wind project. Every year I used to see offspring or immature falcons in the upper regions of Shasta Lake. This is an area further down the Pit River canyon below the nest site. I have not seen any of these falcons for the last two years. I suspect that this nest could now be abandoned and this needs to be verified because wind turbines do kill peregrines falcons. If this nest is abandoned it should noted that it was one of the only active nest sites in CA that survived the DDT crisis.

12 Shellie Correia { 10.04.13 at 5:30 pm }

Only WE can stop this carnage. Our governments are in bed with big wind, and do not care about the truth, they are only interested in covering up the shocking facts, to keep the people from screaming blue murder. Start filming…..and start screaming!!!

13 America In Lockdown | PA Pundits - International { 01.26.14 at 6:04 am }

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14 America in lockdown { 01.26.14 at 4:26 pm }

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