Monday, April 16, 2012

So wind turbines don't actually kill birds

My love for wind turbines is no secret.  I once lived in a town where the greenies were wind advocates who got the two local colleges to install a couple of large Vestas v82s in 2005-6.  One school simply viewed this as an investment so hooked theirs into the grid and negotiated a price for their juice with Xcel Energy.  The other one hooked theirs into an internal distribution grid the school had built in the 1930s.  This second approach was a far greater hassle but it was worth it because substituting their own electricity for what they once bought (retail) was a much better deal than simply selling into the grid (wholesale).  It was so successful the first school has rewired its campus to use that approach.

I loved "my" wind turbines.  They were a sign our little college town got it.  I put up a video of one v82 being assembled on YouTube in 2006 that when I last looked, had been viewed 356,965 times—a significant number for a 10 minute piece.  When one of the schools erected theirs, the campus chaplain gave a homily declaring that their wind turbine was an expression of virtue.  And I think they are extraordinarily beautiful.  The blades are these highly sophisticated airfoils that I love to examine from multiple angles.

Then suddenly, from out of nowhere, I begin to hear that hippie environmentalists were organizing to stop these magnificent solutions to atmospheric carbon buildup from being built.  Supposedly they're ugly (??? There really IS no accounting for taste!)  They're noisy (Certainly not v82s which can barely be heard above the sound of the wind blowing around your head!)

And supposedly they kill birds.  Well, I walked under one of them dozens of times and I never saw a bird carcass.  I know birds shrivel up pretty fast when they die so I looked pretty carefully.  By my reasonably scientific observations, wind turbines don't kill birds.  In fact, because these big turbines spin so slowly (14 rpm) it would take great skill for a bird to even fly into one on purpose.  So now I have some confirmation.

Windfarms do not cause long-term damage to bird populations, study finds

A large majority of birds can co-exist or thrive with operating windfarms, but some species are harmed during construction.  The new study goes against widespread allegations by critics of windfarms that clusters of turbines routinely cause serious damage to wild birds.

Severin Carrell, Scotland correspondent, Thursday 12 April 2012

A major new study has quashed fears that onshore windfarms are causing long-term damage to bird populations, but found new evidence that some species are harmed when windfarms are built.

The study by conservationists into the impacts on 10 of the key species of British upland bird, including several suffering serious population declines, concluded that a large majority of species can co-exist or thrive with windfarms once they are operating.

But the study, the largest carried out in the UK into the impact of onshore windfarms on bird life, also found strong evidence that some species suffered serious harm while windfarms are being built.

"It shows that there can be serious species-level impacts in the construction phase, so construction in the right place is absolutely key. But what it hasn't shown is that windfarms are 'bird blenders'. There is no impact from the turning of the blades," said Martin Harper, theRSPB's UK conservation director.

The study, which is published in the Journal of Applied Ecology, was carried out jointly by four naturalists and ornithologists from the RSPB, Scottish Natural Heritage and the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO). It goes against widespread allegations by critics of windfarms that clusters of turbines routinely cause serious damage to wild birds, through collision with the revolving blades, noise and visual disturbance.

James Pearce-Higgins, the lead author and principal ecologist with the BTO, said: "It was a bit of a surprise that the impact on windfarms seemed to be happening during construction rather than operation." more

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