Once again a discussion left me with a question I couldn’t intelligently respond to. This always bugs me, so here I will look into it a bit further. The topic this time was “as an advocate for renewable energy, how can I rationalize the large number of birds (particularly bald eagles) killed by wind turbines?”. I didn’t have an answer, but suspected that the number was not as drastic as suggested by supporters, often clinging to Big Fossil for other reasons. My gut response was that all energy sources have drastic negative effects on the environment and wildlife in particular. Based on what I actually new, my argument was weak and I needed to make it a little better, acknowledging my intent is not to become an expert. As citizens we sometimes have to be skeptical and seek to find out, so we can do a better job as consumers and as participants in the democratic process.
The article below, by Michael Graham Richard was found on Treehugger.com. Though this article was found in a pro environmental source, it cites various seemingly unbiased sources:
- A recent peer-reviewed study, which itself looked at 116 other studies from the U.S. and Canada, confirms that wind turbines are waaaay down the list of problems for birds; in fact by displacing fossil fuels they are helping birds, as well as everything else that is alive on the planet.
- peer-reviewed study by two federal scientists and the environmental consulting firm West Inc.
- State of Birds in North America
Basically the facts are:
- “Wind turbines kill between 214,000 and 368,000 birds annually
- a small fraction compared with the estimated 6.8 million fatalities from collisions with cell and radio towers
- or the 1.4 billion to 3.7 billion deaths from cats, according to the peer-reviewed study by two federal scientists and the environmental consulting firm West Inc.
- ‘We estimate that on an annual basis, less than 0.1% … of songbird and other small passerine species populations in North America perish from collisions with turbines,’ says lead author Wallace Erickson of Wyoming-based West.”
The article has a very good chart showing other leading sources of bird deaths. Some of the numerically more detrimental sources include: buildings, automobiles, cell towers, etc. It would seem that negatively targeting wind turbines as some massive form of bird fatalities may come from any number of implicit or explicit biases: political, propaganda, financial interests, etc. We all need to do constant self examination, first accepting that we have them and then trying to discover where these biases have their roots.