Do wind turbines kill a significant amount of birds?
Let’s start with the famous sentence ‘Nobody’s Perfect!’ From the film Some like it hot. We can use the same idea more generally: even renewable energy sources have some drawbacks which must be taken into account. Some people will argue that even though being renewable, they do have a footprint: we use materials and industrial processes to build the wind turbines or the solar panels. Agree. Nothing’s Perfect! But we need to take the same approach as in the film (if you didn’t watch it, we really recommend it, great comedy!): everything is relative.
Renewable energy sources are not perfect and they have some drawbacks such as the problem of dispatchability (we don’t have sun or wind anytime we need it), but some of them must be considered into context such as birds fatalities due to collisions with wind turbines. The American Wind Wildlife Institute (AWWI) funded a study named A comprehensive Analysis of Small-Passarine (the most common type of bird in America) Fatalities from Collision with Turbines at Wind Energy Facilities. The main results from the study as they mention on their webpage are:
‘The study finds that, of the more than 5 billion small passerines in North America, an estimated 134,000-230,000, or less than 0.01%, collide annually with wind turbines. Overall, the study authors estimate that all bird fatalities from wind turbines range from 214,000 to 368,000 annually–a small fraction compared with the estimated 6.8 million fatalities from collisions with cell and radio towers, 1.4 to 3.7 billion fatalities from cats, and of the many other, much larger threats that birds face today.’
Therefore, bringing the analysis into context, one of the drawbacks from installing wind turbines should be relativized: there are several reasons which are way higher bird fatality causes than wind turbines.
Cats do kill a considerable amount of birds. Cell and radio towers too. Would we able to stop using our cell phones in order to protect birds’ lives?
Furthermore, wind turbines don’t emit greenhouse gases and therefore contribute to fight climate change. Climate change was reported to threaten the survival of more than half of all species of birds in North America by National Audubon Society for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on September 8, 2014. Eventually, wind turbines may have a favorable bird fatality balance.
The results from the study may help to bridge the gap between wildlife campaigners and clean energy advocates since both of them have the same goal: a sustainable world. In the end, we all need to put the benefits and risks into context when it comes to the future of our planet.
Finally, we want to make sure that:
With this post we don’t want to undervalue any life and we definitely are in favor of any action which preserves nature and our planet. We are sure wind turbines designers try to improve wind turbines such as in the case of California’s Altamont Pass where they changed some of the wind turbines for new ones with less dangerous blades and there was a decrease on bird deaths. Even with the introduction and expansion of the use of drones in wind farms maintenance there may appear new ways of reducing bird fatalities. With this post, we want mainly to emphasize that everything should be analyzed into context in order to reach the best decision possible.