Blog author: jspalink
Friday, October 14, 2005
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An article appeared in Wired News today on the unintended consequences of wind farms. One of these consequences — among many others, I’m sure — is “an astronomical level of bird kills.”

Thousands of aging turbines stud the brown rolling hills of the Altamont Pass on I-580 east of San Francisco Bay, a testament to one of the nation’s oldest and best-known experiments in green energy.

Next month, hundreds of those blades will spin to a stop, in what appears to be a wind-energy first: Facing legal threats from environmentalists, the operators of the Altamont wind farm have agreed to shut down half of their windmills for two months starting Nov. 1; in January, they will be restarted and the other half will be shut down for two months.

Though the Altamont Pass is known for its strong winds, it also lies on an important bird-migration route, and its grass-covered hills provide food for several types of raptors. “It’s the worst possible place to put a wind farm,” said Jeff Miller, a wildlife advocate at the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s responsible for an astronomical level of bird kills.”

In July, Anthony Bradley wrote a piece for Acton News and Commentary titled “The Answer is (not) Blowing in the Wind,” which touched on this point. While wind farms can provide a somewhat less polluting energy source, environmentalists now desire that they be placed in areas with the least biological and ecological impact. Good luck. Nature is all around us and it will never be possible to generate energy without impacting the environment. This has been true since cavemen discovered fire. And while the levels of impact vary (I think we can all agree that destroying the ecosystem of a river by dumping heated water from a powerplant is worse than some dead birds), there will always be an impact.

All of this (various examples from the Wired article included environmental impacts on sheep, bats, birds, marine animals, …) begs the question: If we’re going to have to shut down wind farms every other month to protect the environment, is it wasteful stewardship? While wind power may provide some (and by some, I mean very little) alternative energy, if it’s not a consistent source, shouldn’t we be investing in more efficient means of energy production rather than wasting time and space on wind power?

As a side note – another article in Wired suggests that nuclear power (cleaner and more cost effective than coal) can pave the way to efficient and economically driven power generation for the United States.


  • Nathan

    These claims of exaggerated bird kills appear to be totally fabricated, and should NOT be used to justify this kind of thing. Environists thought that windfarms would be a bogus goal – now that they are in use in many parts of the US and the world, they realize that this technology has the potential to continue to let us enjoy a high-energy civilization – which is NOT their fondest dream!

  • http://www.awea.org Tom Gray

    The comment that wind is a “somewhat less polluting energy source” is an understatement. It creates no air pollution, no water pollution, no global warming pollution and it requires no mining or drilling for fuel.

    Furthermore, even at the very low levels at which it is currently installed in the U.S., it is helping to hold down natural gas prices, something that could yet be important this winter. Wind currently displaces roughly 4-5% of the gas that is used for electric generation, and is an excellent hedge against the extraordinary volatility we’ve seen in the natural gas market over the past several years.

    –Tom Gray, American Wind Energy Association