Bird-killing wind ‘farms’

Bird-killing wind ‘farms’. By Matt Ridley.

The BBC, in one of its poorly named “comedy” slots, last week mocked people who complain that wind factories kill birds. Cats kill more birds than wind turbines, the programme said. Er, when was the last time your cat came home with a golden eagle, a bearded vulture or a red throated diver? Wind turbines, unlike cats, single out large, soaring, rare birds.

Golden eagle

A rare lammergeier or bearded vulture released in Spain as part of a conservation project recently strayed to the Netherlands and met its end at a wind factory. All over the world, the largest and rarest eagles and vultures are dying in significant numbers as a result of turbines: in Australia, wedge-tailed eagles; in South Africa, Verreaux’s eagles; in Norway, sea eagles; in California, golden eagles.

One study found that, at a single windy spot in California, Altamont Pass, wind turbines were killing over 1,000 birds of prey per year, including more than 60 golden eagles. These are probably underestimates: there is no obligation on wind firms to count the birds they kill and they avoid doing so. It is left to volunteer conservationists to try to find the evidence. …

Green hero

On the Norwegian island of Smola, the number of sea eagle territories fell from 13 to five after the construction of a 68-turbine wind power station. Local extinction is a real possibility for these species. …

Even if eagles don’t die, they may be affected. Satellite tags attached to golden eagles released in the Monadhliath mountains in Scotland show the birds carefully avoiding the areas around wind factories. So they have less habitat and smaller populations. …

Then there is the impact on bats. North American studies estimate up to a million bats a year are killed by turbines. A German study concluded that each turbine kills an astonishing 70 bats in two months. You or I would be prosecuted for this.

The silence of most conservation charities on this topic is deafening: that wind firms subsidise such charities is presumably just a coincidence. Organisations that make a huge fuss if a farmer or a gamekeeper is even suspected of shooting a hawk shrug at the wind industry’s vastly greater slaughter. …

True, it’s possible to site wind turbines away from migration routes, and even to stop them spinning when tagged eagles approach, or during nights when bats are likely to be active. But this would lower the output of electricity, making them ever less economic.

Money talks.

hat-tip Scott of the Pacific