Wind Turbines and Bird Kills


| 12/18/2012 10:42:24 AM


Tags: renewable energy, wind power, birds, Cam Mather,

I was asked to speak to the Quinte Field Naturalists recently about personal steps towards sustainability. I knew this group had a great many “birders” in it, so I was a bit apprehensive. Birders in my area have been very outspoken against big wind. So let me state three things here first. 

  1. I love wind power. Big, small, local, at my house, in the ocean, in fields, I love wind power. This is my bias.
  2. Wind turbines kill birds. Not many, but some. How many is what is relevant.
  3. Big wind turbines take some getting used to. Even though I love the look of big wind turbines, I am the first to admit that when 90 of them went up on Wolfe Island, they changed the look of the landscape. I don’t think it’s in a bad way, but many in my province do.  

Ontario is blessed with lots of wind power. Big open areas, especially near large bodies of water, are windy.  Ontario includes shoreline on Lake Superior, Lake Huron, Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. They are great lakes indeed. Not only is it a mind-boggling amount of fresh water, it’s a huge potential clean energy resource because the wind sweeps across these large bodies of water.

Our province enacted “The Green Energy Act” which is one of the most progressive clean power programs in the world. We now have lots of wind turbines and solar panels in service or being planned. The Green Energy Act shifts all the risk for the power generation from the government to individuals and corporations. If you put up a wind turbine, you pay for it, you pay to get the power lines to it, you pay to insure it and all that the province does is commit to purchase the electricity you generate at a fixed price. In a province that is saddled with 10 of billions of dollars worth of debt from our nuclear plants, and 10 of billions of dollars worth of obligations to decommission those plants and dispose of their waste and insure them while they operate, it’s a great deal for taxpayer and ratepayers.

But enough of my proselytizing. People in this province don’t seem to like green energy. Or they claim to be supportive of “wind power” or “hydro power” or “solar power,” just not anywhere near where they live. Europe hasn’t had the kind of push back we have in this province and I don’t understand why it’s so strong here. But the opposition is very vocal.

We hear a lot about wind turbines killing birds. So when I spoke to this group I was expecting pushback on the topic. I decided that I’d better do some research to share with this group.

I found a website for the “Fatal Light Awareness Program” or “FLAP” (http://www.flap.org/) They are a group of birders who are concerned by how many birds get killed by large buildings. Their report states that 14,000 migratory birds die every day in Toronto. There’s photo of just some of the dead birds that they have collected. It’s heart breaking. 

t brandt
12/20/2012 9:08:08 PM

Personally, I was creeped out the first time I saw the extensive array of 50+ huge wind turbines infesting 120deg of the horizon near Dwight , IL. They reminded me of the Martian Machines in War of the Worlds. In contrast, the nearby nuclear plant at Braidwood is inconspicuous. But that's personal taste, I guess.....If we really needed alternative energy, then the trade-off of dead birds for pollution might be justified. As the author states, bird kills from wind turbines are small compared to that from glass windows in hi-rise buildings... But, the probelm is, the" need" for altrnatives is based on the false assumption that fossil fuels are bad for the environment. They are not. Once upon a time, hi sulfur coal was killing forests from acid rain, but that has been stopped. "Scrubbers" on coal fire plants make soot a thing of the past. Natural gas burns completely to water & co2. And, no co2 is not causing "climate change."...Wind, bio-mass & PV power are too expensive compared to fossil fuel & nuclear energy and have acceptable cost only in certain small, remote applications....Time to worry about somehing more important, like loss of habitat to human encroachment.


ann pulley
12/19/2012 8:32:30 PM

If wind turbines are a danger to birds, why not put some kind of bird proof cage around the rotors ? Home fans have cages to keep little fingers out of them, wind turbines could do that too. It is really a no brainer to do so. Save the enviornment AND the birds. A re-design or retrofit would be very do-able.


mayo underwood
12/19/2012 2:23:19 PM

In the first 6 months of operation in 2010, the bird kill on Wolfe Island was 602 birds, 1,207 bats. Of those birds, a large percentage was raptors, including owls and eagles. Wind power in areas of migration (along coastlines, which is where all of Ontario's wind turbine installations are located) is creating a mortality on birds that aren’t at risk by cats or large buildings. The bigger birds are long-lived and have low reproductive rates. They’re like the grizzly bears of the bird world. They have no way to compensate for excessive mortality.





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