Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Wind farms are not laying waste to bird life

Returning to a classic today, PolitiFact recently released a fantastic roundup of the issues surrounding wind turbines and their effect on bird life. The full article is available here, but for those who would prefer a brief summary:

  1. Wind turbines do kill birds
  2. HOWEVER, their effect is vanishingly meaningless compared with other human activities.
While it's difficult to get an exact count of wind farm-related bird deaths, reasonable reputable estimates for US kills are in the range of 20,000 to 500,000. Half a million sounds like a lot, but let's compare it to some other sources of bird death (drawn from the PolitiFact article, numbers refer to bird kills in the US per year):

  • Buildings: around 1 BILLION kills
  • Cats: hundreds of millions
  • High-tension wires: 130 million - 1 billion
  • Cars: 80 million.
So, even taking extremely high estimates for harm caused, wind turbines are several orders of magnitude less important than many other factors. You might say that one bird is too many, but ask yourself this: by providing power without fossil fuels, how many birds are these turbines saving? More wind power, fewer cars driving around, and maybe not so many cats around would do so much more to help bird populations than knee-jerk NIMBYism.