Wind turbines not ‘Eco-friendly’ to eagles

For the rest of us, it is a criminal offence to kill bats and golden eagles. But it seems that all those under the spell of the infatuation with windpower and global warming can claim exemption from the law. In return for ludicrously small amounts of very expensive electricity, wildlife must pay the price for their dreams.

A red kite killed by colliding with a turbine in Spain, where up to a million birds a year may be dying in this way

By Christopher Booker  UK Telegraph

In all my scores of items over the years on why the obsession with wind turbines will be seen as one of the major follies of our age, there is one issue I haven’t touched on. The main practical objection to turbines, of course, is that they are useless, producing derisory amounts of electricity at colossal cost. (Yet the Government wants us to spend £100 billion on building thousands more of them which, even were it technically possible, would do virtually nothing to fill the fast-looming 40 per cent gap in our electricity supply.)

A feature of these supposedly environment-friendly machines that I haven’t mentioned, however, is their devastating effect on wildlife, notably on large birds of prey, such as eagles and red kites. Particularly disturbing is the extent to which the disaster has been downplayed by professional bodies, such as the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in Britain and the Audubon Society in the US, which should be at the forefront of exposing this outrage, but which have often been drawn into a conflict of interest by the large sums of money they derive from the wind industry itself.

There is plenty of evidence for the worldwide scale of this tragedy. The world’s largest and most carefully monitored wind farm, Altamont Pass in California, is estimated to have killed between 2,000 and 3,000 golden eagles alone in the past 20 years. Since turbines were erected on the isle of Smola, off Norway, home to an important population of white-tailed sea eagles, destruction is so great that last year only one chick survived. Thanks to wind farms in Tasmania, a unique sub-species of wedge-tailed eagles faces extinction. And here in Britain, plans to build eight wind farms on the Hebridean islands, among Scotland’s largest concentration of golden eagles, now pose a major threat to the species’ survival in the UK.

The real problem is that birds of prey and wind developers are both drawn, for similar reasons, to the same sites – hills and ridges where the wind provides lift for soaring birds and heavily subsidised profits for developers. Eagles may thus be drawn from hundreds of square miles to particular wind farms. And, as can be seen from the YouTube video of a vulture circling above a turbine in Crete (Google “Fatal accident with vulture on windmill”), the vortices created by blade tips revolving at up to 200mph can destabilise such large birds, plunging them into a fatal collision.

This ecological disaster has been abundantly documented and publicised, not least in Europe by Save The Eagles International, run by Mark Duchamp, a retired French businessman living in Alicante. Spain has one of the three highest concentrations of turbines in Europe and, according to the Spanish Ornithological Society (see Mr Duchamp’s Iberica 2000 website), they may be killing up to a million birds a year. But he focuses his campaign on what he sees as the disturbing failure to protect birds by the bodies whose job it is to do so, from the RSPB to the European Commission.

In the US, the local branch of the Audubon Society withdrew its opposition to a giant wind farm off Cape Cod after a substantial sum of money was promised for ornithologists to monitor its effects on bird life. In Britain, the RSPB claims to keep a critical eye on those effects, but nevertheless urges a major expansion of wind farms, on the grounds that “climate change is the most significant threat to biodiversity on the planet”. The RSPB receives £10 from the wind-farm builder Scottish & Southern Energy for every customer signing up for electricity under its “RSPB Energy” scheme. Ornithologists also derive a good income from developers for providing impact assessments for planning applications or for monitoring existing wind farms for bird collisions.

Various official bodies, such as Scottish National Heritage (SNH), are responsible in law for protecting bird populations. One particular scheme that sparked a long and fierce controversy – and was mildly opposed by the RSPB – was a wind farm now under construction at Edinbane on the Isle of Skye, on hills known to attract young golden eagles and sea eagles. A first run of the SNH “collision model” showed that, over 25 years, this was likely to kill 137 golden eagles, nearly 10 times the permissible conservation limit of 15. But when SNH revised a key parameter, the “avoidance rate”, from 95 per cent to 98 per cent, and the developer removed nine turbines from its plan, the result was that predicted eagle deaths fell to exactly 15, allowing the scheme to go ahead.

Details of what Mr Duchamp calls “the scandal of the Edinbane wind farm” are included in a complaint he has lodged with the European Commission (also available on his Iberica 2000 website), asking Brussels to be much more rigorous in enforcing its own environmental legislation, such as the Birds and Habitats Directives, which are widely disregarded by national authorities. The Commission did order the Scottish Executive to veto a 178-turbine wind farm on the Hebridean island of Lewis (for once, strongly opposed by the RSPB) because its devastating effect on eagles and other protected birds would breach its directives. But many similarly damaging schemes on Lewis and elsewhere are still being driven forward as part of Edinburgh’s mad dream that 40 per cent of Scotland’s electricity should come from wind and other renewable sources within 10 years.

Large birds of prey are far from being the only victims of wind farms, and the thousands of miles of power lines needed to connect them to the grid. A study cited by Birdlife International shows that, each year, power lines can be responsible for up to 800 bird kills per mile. Vast numbers of other birds are killed by turbines each year, as are countless thousands of bats, which also seem to be drawn to wind farms, and which recent studies have shown die with their lungs distended by air pressure from the blades.

For the rest of us, it is a criminal offence to kill bats and golden eagles. But it seems that all those under the spell of the infatuation with windpower and global warming can claim exemption from the law. In return for ludicrously small amounts of very expensive electricity, wildlife must pay the price for their dreams.

13 thoughts on “Wind turbines not ‘Eco-friendly’ to eagles

  1. Shameful and outrageous! Wind turbine developers should face heavy fines! They are trying to call this “incidental ” ! It is CRIMINAL!!!

  2. Heavy fines? Nope, jail time. That would slow them down a wee bit.

    BIG WIND = BIG LIARS

  3. For more on the subject, especially as it pertains to Ontario and the Great Lakes flyways, please read “Location, Location, Location…Migration, Migration, Migration” in the Wildlife Section.

  4. I am glad this article has found it’s way here. The Telegraph is one of the largest and most influential of the “Broad Sheets” not tabloid newspapers in the UK. All airplanes, trains etc carry it and it’s read in many board rooms.

  5. Way to go UK! Together we can whoop this travesty!

    Speak up… Speak out and ‘Get er done!

  6. from Richard…..”The bizarre thing is that these “greenies” are supposed to be pro-nature. Yet, time and time again, it is they who are the ones supporting the degradation of the natural environment, then relying on convoluted arguments and deception to cover up their inconsistencies. In time, we could tie them to the blades of their windmills, as ad hoc bird scarers, at which point we will finally have found a use for them”

  7. Other than stopping the blades and even then there would be some mortalities, industrial wind turbines and developing infrastructure kill birds and bats and destroy habitats. Mark Duchamp has been working with this for awhile and writes reports the wind industries try to down play. His work with the white-tail sea eagle shows loss of nesting birds when industrial wind development moves in. Wind industry try to tell us more birds are killed by cats. Since when does a cat kill a raptor and since when does one source of mortalities make it ok to increase mortalities? These mortalities are not sustainable and bird species will decline as a result. There are so many things that are bad about industrial wind turbines it makes it even worst when it is for little and sometimes no gain as promised. The value of power from industrial wind is not worth any of this. The problem is most people will only wake up because the whole scheme of putting in industrial wind turbines is going to decrease the amount of money we have at the end of the day. All combined costs are too high a price to pay for the illusion of green.

  8. Wonder how Mr Nature Suzuki looks at this?…………..these Windies and Greenies are nothing better than “Wildlife Murderers”

    Nice scenario McGuinty!

    Somebody should send this article to his Mother!

  9. One of many studies…

    a) A Summary and Comparison of Bird Mortality from Anthropogenic Causes with an Emphasis on Collisions – carried out by US Forest Service

    http://www.fs.fed.us/psw/publications/documents/psw_gtr191/Asilomar/pdfs/1029-1042.pdf

    Key Findings:

    – For every 10,000 birds killed by human activities including fatalities by collisions with man made structures, less than one death is caused by a wind turbine.

    – Green house gas emissions pose the most significant long-term threat to birds.

    – American house cat poses a much greater threat to birds than wind turbines. House cats are estimated to kill 10.6% birds each year in the U.S. compared to less than 0.01% birds that die from a collision with turbines.

    I’m not for or against, I just think we need to take a very close look at actual evidence and leave the emotionally charged opinions out of this discussion.

  10. For every 10,000 birds killed by human activities including fatalities by collisions with man made structures, less than one death is caused by a wind turbine. RAPTORS ARE MOST AT RISK FROM TURBINES. YOU CAN’T LUMP IN SPARROWS AND STARLINGS WITH EAGLES, HAWKS AND PEREGRINES.

    – Green house gas emissions pose the most significant long-term threat to birds. THAT IS VERY DEBATABLE. WIND TURBINES DO NOT LOWER GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS, SO WHAT’S YOUR POINT?

    – American house cat poses a much greater threat to birds than wind turbines. House cats are estimated to kill 10.6% birds each year in the U.S. compared to less than 0.01% birds that die from a collision with turbines.
    AGAIN, WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOUR CAT KILLED A HAWK OR AN EAGLE? BIASED SCIENCE IS NOT SCIENCE. USING STATISTICS ARE EASILY MANIPULATED TO PROVE ANY POINT AND THOSE YOU QUOTE ARE VERY QUESTIONABLE AND NOT EASILY VERIFIED.

    AGAIN, IT IS RAPTORS AND LARGE BIRDS LIKE SWANS AND VULTURES WE ARE WORRIED ABOUT!

  11. Another view, and other gullible types, should go to the Wildlife section of this website and read “Location, Location, Location … Migration, Migration, Migration” a few times until the truth sinks in.

    No need to rehash the details here.

    BIG WIND = BIG LIE

  12. Death rates at wind facilities do not produce an absolute number but an estimate and sometimes a best guess. The methods limit search area and search time. Not ideal but that fact is ignored as death rates are quoted as being the “real” numbers. They are not. The methods used are better suited to maintain lower death rate estimates then get real numbers. Bird mortalities happen in events and not generally distributed evenly over time. Mortality rates will decrease as bird populations decline in the area. Additional mortalities of eagle, peregrine or other low reproduction rated raptor is too many for these birds. The death of a nesting pair of eagles kills the eaglets. Loss of nesting habitat reduces recruitment opportunities. The cumulative effects are bigger than one or two birds, which were estimated by flawed studies. Additional mortalities of birds for no proven benefits in electricity generation (in fact determined to complicate generation management) and which negatively impacts the economy should not be tolerated. Industrial wind provides no benefits worth these and the many other costs.

Comments are closed.