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Violent Environmental Problems With Wind Turbine Operation: From Avian Mortality to Catastrophic Failure

By James Rust -- April 3, 2013

Renewable energy wind turbines as electricity sources possess extreme environmental problems not found in their renewable energy rival–solar photovoltaic. These problems are due to rotation of 130-foot or more long, thirteen-ton turbine blades with tip speeds of 200 miles per hour.

“An unavoidable problem of wind turbines is killing flying creatures.  The Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) produced a video “Eagle lawsuit ruffles wind industry feathers”.  The video records a bird apparently being killed by a wind turbine. It appears the bird went back for a second look at the turbine and a blade struck the fatal blow. Possibly the bird thought the turbine was a bigger bird.”


A companion article published March 19, 2013, by CFACT is “Wind turbines kill up to 39 million birds a year” by wildlife expert Jim Wiegand. Details of studies on bird fatalities caused by wind turbines are cited in this article.

The source of Jim Wiegand’s statement wind turbines kills up to 39 million birds a year is found in the December 15, 2012, Townhall article by Paul Driessen “Stop Subsidizing the Slaughter”. Mr. Driessen’s estimates are based on bird fatality studies done in the United States and Europe that are referenced in the article. He used 39,000 wind turbines operating in the United States at the end of 2011 for making estimates.

It has been long known wind turbines are devastating to bat populations. A U. S. Geological Survey report “Bat Fatalities at Wind Turbines: Investigating the Causes and Consequences” mentions thousands of bats are killed annually at wind turbine sites around the world.

Besides being minced by turbine blade rotations, bats are subject to deaths by other means as explained by the August 26, 2008 Scientific American articleOn a Wing and Low Air: The Surprising Way Wind Turbines Kill Bats.” Bats are killed by pressure pulses causing burst blood vessels in their lungs. Due to these deaths being caused by remote features of wind turbine operations and bats very small body mass, bat carcasses may be located large distances from offending wind turbines and never found. As nocturnal creatures, bats are particularly vulnerable to wind turbines because their operations are frequently at night when demand for electricity is at its lowest.

These four references provide links to other references of bird kill studies that make convincing arguments wind turbines present unacceptable threats to flying creatures.

According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), the United States had at the end of 2012 more than 60,000 Megawatts of wind turbine output supplied by 45,000 turbines. The majority of wind turbines are located in vast agriculture areas of central United States stretching from Texas to Canada.

The 39 million annual bird fatalities estimates by Jim Wiegand and Paul Driessen may be gross underestimates due to thousands of wind turbines starting operation in 2012. Bats devour huge amounts of insects and their loss in agriculture areas may have devastating impacts on future agriculture production. These assessments are not considered or studied. Agriculture Departments of Midwest Universities, like Purdue University, should study effects of bat loss, and maybe extinction, and subsequent larger insect populations on crop production. Wind farms in corn fields are close by.

Other problems with wind turbines are they catch on fire and explode. In 2011, an upper New York state wind turbine exploded and spread debris for one-fourth mile. Pictures of wind turbine fires in Texas and other locations are further displayed.

Winter times present other problems for wind turbines. Spinning turbine blades have thrown refrigerator-sized pieces of ice hundreds of yards.

Wind turbines should be subjected to the same Maximum Credible Accident (MCA) criteria imposed on nuclear power plants. The MCA for nuclear plants is a Loss-of-Coolant-Accident (LOCA) in which reactor coolants stop flowing and reactor cores are subject to melting due overheating.

The MCA for wind turbines is 13-ton turbine blades snap-off during operation and blades hurtled possibly one-half mile. This accident could be labeled Loss-of-Blade-Accident (LOBA). A possible LOBA is a severed blade lands in a local high school football stadium during Homecoming–thousands could be killed before the 13-ton blade comes to rest. Exclusion zones surrounding wind turbines need established to protect the public from injury. Smaller scale injuries are individuals being struck by decapitated eagles or similar flying creatures.

Wind turbines also affect humans. Exposure to low-amplitude pressure pulses unnoticed by humans may lead to future problems. In addition, sound pulses at about 20 cycles per minute match turbine’s speed of rotation. Long-term health effects from these disturbances can’t be known.

These are a few violent environmental problems with wind turbines unknown to solar photovoltaic. Like solar energy, additional environmental assessments are wind turbines energy requirements to build and install them in comparison to energy outputs during operating lifetimes. Wind turbines require external power supplies to heat them in the winter and provide initial blade rotations.

Environmental effects of acquiring rare earth metals for generator magnets, large quantities of fiberglass and other metals, and vast amounts of concrete for turbine bases need evaluated. Like solar energy, intermittent operation of wind turbines require fast responding fossil-fuel electricity sources to maintain continuity of electricity supply. Poor performance of backup electricity supply may reduce or even eliminate wind turbine’s savings of fossil fuel use.

In the exuberant pursuit of wind and solar energy sources, matters of intermittent supply are ignored. Wind power is substantial in Texas and supply problems are documented in my February 11, 2011, article, “Wind Power Emergencies in Texas posted on The Heartland Institute website.

Like solar photovoltaic, wind turbines are expected to have a practical operating lifetime of around 25 years. What happens to wind turbines no longer usable?

Will the countryside be strewn by unsightly landscapes of tall towers with dangling turbine blades? This is a view of thousands of still wind turbines shown years ago on I-10 west of Palm Springs, California. Whether this situation exists today the author is unaware.


James H. Rust, Professor of nuclear engineering and policy adviser to The Heartland Institute. Prof. Rust currently funds three annual engineering scholarships of $2500, $6000, and $6500.


  1. Ray  

    Currently all wind capturing techniques are turbine to wind. This 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. Manifolds, on the ground, could be used to combine the windsocks. The windsocks could also be mounted under an airfoil, lifted by helium balloons, for high altitude wind capture. Put bird netting over the opening to prevent birds from entering the funnel.

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


  2. Magnus A  

    “…wind turbines are expected to have a practical operating lifetime of around 25 years.”
    A study by prof. Gordon Hughes, at Renewable energy foundation (REF) says the lifetime is as low as between 12 and 15 years. In 10 years the production drops with 1/3. For sea based wind power in 10 years time the output drops to half of its original (calculated) output.

    (I think the study is free to download, and has data files of power plants’ production in UK and Denmark.)


  3. jrust  

    The paper by Prof. Gordon Hughes that shows wind turbines lifetimes are short is found at the following link: http://www.ref.org.uk/attachments/article/280/ref.hughes.19.12.12.pdf
    This really shows present technology for wind turbines are impractical and pursuits in their use is money down a drain.
    James H. Rust, Professor


  4. JohnInMA  

    I keep reading about high avian mortality. I don’t doubt or “deny” the claims (leveraging the climate catastrophists favorite word), but I wonder why it cannot be more directly proven. It just seems that the debate stalls when wind supporters say there is insufficient empirical data supporting the high death projections. Fair representative observations (over time and area) may exist. If so, can you point me to them? In this blog and others, I’ve read that access to some wind farms can be challenging for such observations, but is that the case in total? My goal is simple: there is an intuitive reason to believe the analysis. But with such large projections, I’d like my alarm and outrage to be better supported.

    As a side note, I see the wind industry as suffering from issues of the same nature as the nuclear industry. Gov’t twiddling too far downstream essentially locks inferior technology to one degree and discourages innovation to another degree. It doesn’t stop all creativity, but certainly slows it down. My analogy is this: so much of the “new” developments to allow nuclear power to be more practical and practicable was in the works from the earliest days of reactor commissioning. Had the industry not be so influenced by governments twiddling with design, fuels, etc., we might have already arrived at the better solutions that are in some cases still only promises at this point. Examples: SMR, or modular systems. Thorium as a fuel. Differing/improved fuel cycles (molten salt, etc.). Instead we’ve been locked in a ‘bigger is better’ pressurized or boiling water cycle that pose nearly unbearable financial risks to utilities, without even arriving at fair market generating costs (meaning more on par with other fuel technologies).

    Likewise I expect that a generation or two from now, we will see improved energy extraction from natural sources WITHOUT colossal, ‘bigger is better’ rotating masses or land wasting, extensive solar farms. The push to “replace” fuel burning using current market designs for wind and solar is especially handicapping. There is already some progress to leverage electrostatic principles to extract energy from wind, for example. But the effort is scattered and shallow, promising simplicity and lower cost without satisfactory efficiency yet. Likewise utilizing different electro-chemical processes to extract solar energy and incorporate those methods simply and cheaply into, say, building materials for example, is retarded, too. We’ve become locked into large Cuisinarts and bulky crystalline landscapes with the fantasy that they should/could/will replace all other sources.

    Just as nuclear power evolution has been unnaturally burdened, so are many other possibilities being stalled, too.


  5. Bill Chaffee  

    If a sample of bird and bat species in the location of a proposed “wind farm” could be fitted with GPS tracking devices then that would be one way to study the effect that wind turbines have on avian mortality. That would help to solve the problem of the evidence disappearing after birds and bats are killed. I wonder how difficult and expensive it would be to carry out such studies. Politics rather than technology would probably be the biggest impediment to carrying out such studies.


  6. jrust  

    Mr. Chaffee comment is an excellent comment. I have visited the Fowler Ridge wind farm 25 miles north of Purdue University. About 40 miles from the University of Illinois near Bloomington, IL is a big wind farm that is close to the University of Illinois at Champaign, IL. These schools have excellent Agriculture programs well suited to conduct research to determine hazards of wind farms to bats and potential harm to plant growth by the presence of wind farms in agriculture areas. Lets get the research underway.

    James Rust, Professor


  7. Dr. James H. Rust  

    JohnInMA has a valid point; everyone talks about wind turbines kill birds, but where is the data? This is sort of like Clara Peller’s old saying “Where’s the beef?”

    The article sites four references that can be reached by link that gives some fatality data. These article provide more links to addtional articles on bird fatalities that may take days to read. If you goggle “wind turbine bird kills” you get 940,000 hits. I think there is suficient data that wind turbines kill huge numbers of birds and bats. Another problem spotting avian kills is bodies make good food for insects, animals, and other birds. It takes daily inventory to get reliable data.

    James Rust


  8. JohnInMA  

    James Rust: Although I didn’t/haven’t clicked every possible active link nor links from the linked articles (at least one link was dead), it still seems my point is valid. Must ‘studies’ have provided ‘estimates’ which are conveniently contested by the wind industry supporters. They attack assumptions and provide anecdotal, and often shallow, observations or factoids to discredit.

    So, why isn’t there more thorough study of a representative sample that is more difficult to dispute (all in an mathematical and scientific rigor sense)? It may be someone in tertiary or later links, but if it exists, shouldn’t it always be at the top of the pile? As I said, intuitively I believe there is a good chance the avian toll is unacceptably high, even if NOT 39 million. And while the argument is well made in prose, it seems to lack enough evidence or data (?) to be a winner yet.

    Search engine hits on bird kills doesn’t seem to be a good substitute. After all, how many hits might I get if I search for certain birth certificate opinions or controversies about the 9/11 attacks? I’m just asking for help in finding the ace in the hole on the avian risks.


  9. Mary Kay Barton  

    Besides the fact that the outputs of these wind LEMONS are abysmal, even the wind industry has admitted to the very short lifespan of these things. According to the wind industry’s trade magazine, North American Wind Power, THIRTEEN (13) years is the life-expectancy of these things. (Vol. 2: No. 12; Jan., 2006, p. 30)

    Recent Corporate trends are very clear – when it is convenient for corporations to shed their responsibilities and legally-binding pacts, they do so with increasing regularity. So who will be left holding the bag when Big Wind LLCs hit the road? The Towns? The landowners?

    At the New York State Local Government Workshop that I attended in Mt. Morris on Nov. 17, 2006, the attorney who spoke (a Mr. Daniel Spitzer – acting attorney for Invenergy, LLC here in NYS) finally admitted, when pressed for an answer by an astute Town Board member, “Ultimately, if the wind companies abandon the project, THE LANDOWNER WILL BE LIABLE” [emphasis mine] — Something most lease-holding landowners are unaware of, I’m sure.

    As for already abandoned turbines littering the country, and more on the devastation to birds, bats, and most importantly – the people whose communities & lives are being turned upside down in the name of ‘Green’ ($$$) energy, see:

    Wind Energy’s Ghosts:

    14,000 Abandoned Wind Turbines in the US:

    Britain to Halt Onshore Wind Projects –
    Wind Farm Impacts May Be Worse Than Climate Change:

    Location, Location, Location… Migration, Migration, Migration, By Wayne Weggner:


  10. Dr. James H. Rust  

    A different angle about wind turbines was presented Thursday by a London Energy Newsletter. Solar energy could also be substituted for wind energy.

    The news report from the London-based Oil & Energy Insider was posted on the Internet April 4, 2013.

    It contains disturbing news about wind energy as a “renewable” energy source. One problem is Mafia involvement in Italian wind farms.

    “Traditionally the mafia controls operations in gambling, prostitution, protection, extortion, and loan-sharking; yet recent evidence in Italy shows they might actually be adding renewable energy to that list.” This is reasonable because of analogies of normal Mafia business activities to some features of promoting renewable energy sources.

    Since the Mafia knows how to use good business models on investments in Italy, it makes sense sister-organizations in the United States may be making similar investments.

    Renewable energy programs in the United States rely on government subsidies for construction and operation and government mandates that users of renewable electricity must pay higher rates for electricity. Businesses building renewable energy supplies are guaranteed a profit. This is a business model the Mafia figuratively refers to “do as I say or we will use a baseball bat to break your legs”. Some times the model is enforced.

    Wind and solar farms seem a good way to hide illegal money and this activity should be examined in the United States. One problem may be the U. S. government having sympathies with the Mafia because they support U. S. government activities. Through crony capitalism, the U. S. government promotes a reverse Robin Hood theory of taking money from the poor and giving it to their rich supporters.


  11. jrust  

    The link to the Oil & Energy Insider report cited above did not post. It is given by the following:


  12. Violent Environmental Problems With Wind Power | EPA Abuse  

    […] Read more at Master Resource. By James Rust. […]


  13. Elizabeth Barry  

    The counting of dead birds is all over the map; I heard of wind turbine proponents secretly paying people to go out into the areas under turbines and collect dead bodies; this is to be done very early in the morning BEFORE the official death-count is done.

    Also, when birds are struck by the blades they are centrifugally spun away from the turbine; the smallest are flung the furthest away and are outside the official collecting area. These remarks were made by someone living on Wolfe Island, where the turbines are shorter than the newer ones; think about how much further the new 500 foot high installations will be able to fling them; and how many more birds will be sent to their undeserved deaths.


  14. James C Gagnepain  

    Pathetic! Publish an article about wind energy, by a Nuclear Power Engineer, who is contracted to the Koch Brothers Heartland Institute.


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