Category — Avian mortality (“Cuisinarts of the air”)
“It’s high time that people’s safety – and truly devastating impacts on important bird and bat species – stopped taking a back seat to political agendas, crony corporatism, and folklore environmentalism.”
Georgia residents recently learned that a rare bat has stalled state highway improvements. The May 2012 sighting of an endangered Indiana brown bat in a northern Georgia tree has triggered federal regulations requiring that state road projects not “harm, kill or harass” bats.
Even the possibility of disturbing bats or their habitats would violate the act, the feds say. Therefore, $460 million in Georgia road projects have been delayed for up to eighteen months, so that “appropriate studies” can be conducted. The studies will cost $80,000 to $120,000 per project, bringing the total for all 104 road project analyses to $8–12 million, with delays adding millions more.
Bat Benefits … and Overreach
Bats have a vital ecological function that translates into agricultural and health benefits for us. A single colony of 150 big brown bats can consume up to 1.3 million flying insect pests per year, Dr. Justin Boyles and other scientists point out, preventing crop damage and eradicating countless mosquitoes. If Indiana bats are expanding their range from Tennessee into Georgia, that could be good news.
“White nose syndrome” is impacting populations of hibernating bats in caves all over the Eastern USA. The infectious disease is probably fungal in origin, these scientists say, and the loss of North America’s bats to WNS could cost farmers $4-53 billion per year – and let mosquitoes proliferate.
At first blush, then, the delay-and-study decision by the U.S. and Georgia Departments of Transportation (DOT) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect these voracious furry flyers makes sense. (The FWS enforces the Endangered Species Act, Migratory Bird Treaty Act and similar laws.)
However, the Georgia bat study action is akin to obsessing about a cut finger, while ignoring cancer. The schizophrenic decision underscores how environmental concerns, DOT actions and federal threats to impose penalties or withhold highway funds too often seem to reflect ideologies, agendas and politics, rather than science or actual risks of harming a species [Read more →]
April 5, 2013 9 Comments
“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. [Read more →]
March 15, 2013 30 Comments
“The [2004 California Energy Commission] study also discussed how higher raptor mortality occurred when smaller towers were “upgraded” with larger turbines and proportionally longer blades. These wind turbines offered what raptors perceived as intermediate to very big windows of opportunity to fly through what looked like open spaces between towers…. However, the industry … rapidly installed thousands of these much larger turbines across America … and focused attention on new study results that reflected far less accurate (and honest) searches and surveys.”
In 1984, the California Energy Commission concluded in regard to the state’s wind industry: “[M]any institutional, engineering, environmental and economic issues must be resolved before the industry is secure and its growth can be assured.” Though it was between the lines, the primary environmental issue alluded to was the extreme hazard that wind turbines posed to raptors.
But the wind industry pretty much knew that there was little that could be done to make its propeller-style turbines safe for raptors. With exposed blade tips spinning in open space at speeds up to 200 mph, it was impossible. Wind developers also knew they would have a public relations nightmare if people ever learned how many eagles are actually being cut in half – or left with a smashed wing, to stumble around for days before dying.
To hide this inconvenient truth, strict wind farm operating guidelines were established – including high security around turbines, gag orders in agreements, and the prevention of accurate, meaningful mortality studies. [Read more →]
March 14, 2013 19 Comments
“The American Bird Conservancy (ABC) and other experts estimate that well over 500,000 birds and countless bats are being killed annually by turbines. The subsidized slaughter “could easily be over 500” golden eagles a year in western states, Save the Eagles International biologist Jim Wiegand told me. Bald eagles are also being butchered. The body count for the two species could soon reach 1,000 a year.”
Extending the industrial wind production tax credit (PTC), in addition to its other problems, threatens eagles and other majestic birds in consequential ways. Do the Washington, DC environmentalists know this? Do they care?
Back in 1995, Paul Gipe’s book, Wind Power Comes of Age (New York: John Wiley & Sons) forthrightly dealt with the fierce, internal debate within the Sierra Club and other groups about the ‘avian mortality problem.” Christopher Flavin of the Worldwatch Institute even said in a foreword to Gipe’s book (pp. xiv–xv):
To its credit, Wind Energy Comes of Age tackles even the most nettlesome issues plaguing the wind industry, including the problem of bird kills, often referred to euphemistically as ‘avian mortality.’ Although the magnitude of the problem is not yet fully clear, Paul raises important warning flags about the dangers of not taking it and other environmental issues seriously. Unless the industry heeds Paul’s warnings, it will lose the environmental high-ground that helped get it where it is today. . . . Even those who feel stung by his criticisms would do well to remember the fate of the nuclear power industry, and others that chose to ignore early problems.
Well, 17 years later, we can say this major environmental problem is clear, and Big Environmentalism is giving Big Wind a pass, an undeserved pass. [Read more →]
July 30, 2012 7 Comments
California Condors vs. Industrial Wind (a biodiversity warning that Big Environmentalism does not want to hear)
Save the Eagles International (STEI); North-American Platform against Windpower (NA-PAW); and the World Council for Nature (WCFN) just issued a biodiversity warning concerning the California Condor. The press release, slightly edited, follows.
Having spent tens of millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money to recuperate the species, politicians are now allowing its habitat to be invaded by hundreds of wind turbines, of the kind that are killing an estimated 2,000 vultures a year in Spain.
Compared to Spain’s population of 40,000 vultures, there are only 400 California condors, most of them likely to have close encounters with Kern County’s projected wind turbines at some point in their long lives–unless the birds are kept captive, as many presently are.
Kern County Problem
As reported by Forbes Magazine in the January 16, 2012, piece, Wind vs. Bird, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service biologists have alerted Kern County officials to the fact that most of the wind projects on their drawing board, as well as at least one existing wind farm, are a threat to the condor. (1)
“The service requests that the county of Kern exercise extreme caution in developing wind energy within the Tehachapi area because it falls within the range of the California condor,” warned senior biologist Raymond Bransfield. But county officials are now poised to approve lethal wind turbines where condors fly. Humans are not treated differently: health and other adverse effects on local residents are also being overridden to meet Sacramento’s green energy targets. [Read more →]
February 7, 2012 4 Comments
Wind Turbines and Whooping Cranes: Going Soft on Soft Energy (politically correct environmental damage)
The Federal agency charged with protecting endangered species under the Endangered Species Act is evaluating a plan to allow a 200-mile wide corridor for wind energy development from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. The draft land-based guidelines–made ostensibly to avoid, minimize, and compensate for effects to fish, wildlife, and their habitats” — represent one more example of overt and destructive favoritism for an industry that already benefits from fat tax subsidies and mandated market purchases.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Plan
The plan by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) would allow for killing endangered whooping cranes. The government’s environmental review will consider a permit, sought by 19 energy developers, which would allow constructing turbines (over 300 feet tall) and associated transmission lines on non-federal lands in nine states from Montana to the Texas coast, encroaching on the migratory route of the cranes.
The permit from the FWS would allow the projects to “take” an unspecified number of endangered species. Under the Endangered Species Act, “take” is just the euphemism for killing or injuring an endangered species. The government can issue permits to kill or injure listed species with no penalties or risks of lawsuits to developers if they agree to craft conservation plans.
The Administration’s latest wind energy proposal raises concerns because the developments would imperil the habitat of the whooping cranes, including the Central Flyway (shown in purple), a migratory path that cuts through North America, not surprisingly where wind developers want to build, because of prevailing winds. [Read more →]
July 26, 2011 20 Comments
“Citing a dearth of applicable wind-generation modifications, Dick Anderson of the California Energy Commission suspects that current bird fatality levels in the Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area (WRA) will mirror those revealed by a 1991 CEC study. ‘Very little has been done by the wind companies to effectively change the situation,’ Anderson recently said. Though studies have yielded a ‘better understanding’ of avian causalities, few measures appear to be reducing avian impacts.”
- Staff Article, “Altamont Avian Mortality Continues; Improvements Grounded,” California Energy Markets, January 23, 1998, p. 2.
Last week, my post “Cuisinarts of the Air” (Revisiting an environmentalist term for windpower)” ended with the question and a request for readers:
So what has happened in the last decade regarding industrial wind in bird-sensitive areas? Comments and updates welcome!
Well, as if led by an invisible hand, Science magazine published a letter-to-the-editor (November 12, 2010: p. 913), “Birds of Prey Remain at Risk.”
The authors contend that the California bird problem has not gone away. But where is the outrage? Why does Big Environmentalism (BE) look the other way?
The answer, I believe, is that BE must accept industrial wind as part of their cap-carbon-to-cap-capitalism crusade given the dearth of other supply-side options. But windpower gives little emission reduction for the government buck and has a host of side issues–so the question again arises: why?
I believe that the real reason why environmentalists are wind-intoxicated is because the photo-shoped, no-sound images of wind turbines represent the PR front for a whole agenda. Wind is BE’s (environmental) loss leader, so to speak, and part of the consolation prize is higher energy prices, which is a per se good to them. But this is putting form over substance a la Enron. The bubble of misdirection will eventually burst.
The letter follows:
E. Kintisch’s News story “Out of site” (special section on Scaling Up Alternative Energy, 13 August, p. 788) discusses the bird-of-prey deaths (including golden eagles) caused by wind turbines. The story implies that the problem at the Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area (APWRA) in California has been reduced by spacing turbines farther apart and removing turbines from problematic sites. These statements are misleading. [Read more →]
November 24, 2010 3 Comments
Avian mortality is the scientific term applied in environmental assessments of windpower. But there is another term that has gained currency where industrial wind has impacted local bird activity.
This post documents the historical use of the term, which was coined by the Los Angeles representative of the Sierra Club in the late 1980s. The term came back into use when environmentalists challenged a project of Enron Wind Corporation, now a subsidiary of General Electric.
Looking back, if environmentalists and regulatory authorities had cracked down on industrial wind, this artificial government-dependent industry could have been avoided altogether or shut down.
Instead, with Big Environmentalism leading the way, and anti-energy intellectuals welcoming the high cost-low reliability of wind, this inferior power source has been allowed to grow.
And now, grass-roots environmentalists are leading the charge against industrial wind.
A Term is Born
Here is the origin of the term as told by Paul Gipe in Wind Energy Comes of Age (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1995, p. 450):
At the height of the Gorman [California] hearing, an old man took the podium. Suddenly the television news crews switched on their Klieg lights. Something was afoot. They had been alerted that a suitably newsworthy ‘sound bite’ was on its way. Tension in the room mounted. The old man proceeded to lovingly describe the beauty of his racing pigeons, their speed and grace, how they had become a part of his family, and then with perfect timing and dramatic flair, pleaded with the planning commission to protect his pigeons from “the Cuisinarts of the air.” [Read more →]
November 19, 2010 8 Comments