Wind Power Kills Birds
Yes, it’s true: wind power kills birds.
However upsetting this is, it is an issue that needs to be put into context. To use bird deaths to argue against clean, renewable wind power may be unnecessarily confusing the issue.
Renewable energy, including wind power, is something naturalists support.
Bird Death in Context
I realise that nearly everything we do has an effect on environmental, animal, and human health. It’s a matter of smart choices, balance, and of mitigating the detrimental effects of our actions. In terms of bird deaths, the experts say that wind power is the best option.
Consider the following information on bird deaths from Ontario Nature:
Human-caused Annual Bird Mortality in the United States
|Cause||Number of Deaths|
|Building window strikes||1 billion|
|Cats||Hundreds of millions. A study in Wisconsin estimated that domestic rural cats kill about 39 million birds annually in that state alone.|
|Transmission lines||174 million|
|Communications towers||Up to 50 million|
|Oil and waste water pits||Up to 2 million, mostly in western states|
|Oils spills||Hundreds of thousand depending on timing and severity of spills|
|Wind turbines||33,000 (will increase with the rapid increase in wind energy generation projects)|
The data in the chart above is from 2002 and wind power has grown much since it was published. However, even with the increase in wind power, the number of related bird deaths can be considered very low when compared to other causes.
According to the Global Wind Energy Council, the US’s total installed wind power capacity has increased by just over 8 times since 2001. Very roughly estimating the wind turbine bird deaths from the chart of 33,000 by a factor or 8.2, results in around 270,000 bird deaths caused by wind turbines in 2009. Still a very small number compared to other causes of bird deaths. However, is there anything we can do to reduce/eliminate bird deaths, and invest in clean, renewable wind power?
Let’s Ask the Experts
What do the bird experts say? Let’s have a look at the Audubon Society’s Statement on Wind Power.
The Audubon Society has been working for birds and conservation for over a 100 years. Their mission is: “To conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the earth’s biological diversity.”
Some in the anti-wind lobby argue that wind power is not environmental due in part to bird deaths they cause. From what I have read on the issue, it appears that birds are killed when they come into contact with a wind turbine blade.
“Every source of energy has some environmental consequences. Most of today’s rapidly growing demand for energy is now being met by natural gas and expanded coal-burning power plants, which are this country’s single greatest source of the greenhouse-gas emissions that cause global warming.
If we don’t find ways to reduce these emissions, far more birds—and people—will be threatened by global warming than by wind turbines.
Our challenge is thus to help design and locate wind-power projects that minimize the negative impacts on birds.”
Collaborating to Solve Problems
What can we do to minimize bird deaths?
Recognizing that bird death is an important issue, the Audubon Society is working with industry to find solutions:
“On balance, Audubon strongly supports wind power as a clean alternative energy source that reduces the threat of global warming.
Location, however, is important. Many National Audubon Society Chapters and State Programs are actively involved in wind-power siting issues in their communities.
Each project has a unique set of circumstances and should be evaluated on its own merits.”
Let’s get on with investing in our renewable energy future. However, let’s follow the Audubon Society’s lead and work with the industry, community groups, and residents for a cleaner and healthier future for all. Now that’s a policy for the birds!