Deadly blades; death toll mounts as wind farms massacre birds of prey
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Deadly blades; death toll mounts as wind farms massacre birds of prey

Atlanta : GA : USA | Aug 07, 2009 at 6:40 PM PDT
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Carnage under the turbines. Photo courtesy Marc Duchamp, Save-The-Eagles

The first thing I’d like you to do is to look at the pictures. Really look at them.

This is the ugly, dirty secret of the powerful prop-turbine wind industry. It’s the sorry story that you won’t see on the ‘feel-good' TV commercials or read about in industry-sponsored ads and skewed 'research' papers. The employees at wind farms have been instructed to not talk about the staggering numbers of dismembered bodies accumulating at the bases of these turbines. There is big money invested here, and big profits. When people have large investments they do what they need to in order to justify and protect that investment.

Even if it’s wrong.

“The towers in these images are Prop Turbines and when the wind is blowing, their blade tips spin at over 200 miles per hour,” explains Jim Wiegand, graduate Berkley University in California, where wind farms are being built with terrifying speed. “If you were an Eagle or an Owl hunting for a meal or any bird trying to fly over the hill, imagine having to navigate these spinning blades every day. This is just one of hundreds of Wind farms planned for America. It has been running for over 25 years. During that time over 30,000 birds of prey have died trying to fly through this gauntlet of spinning blades. Some estimate the mortality higher at 40,000. Over 1000 of these fatalities have been Golden Eagles“

Bear in mind that wildlife is not killed only by the spinning blades. High tension power lines, new access roads, habitat destroyed by construction of the farms and increased human presence all combine to transform what is touted as an ‘ecologically friendly’ new energy technology into the biggest deception ever perpetrated upon the public.

As is the case so often with powerful political/business lobbies (think tobacco industry), they have the money and influence to buy allies to perpetuate their party line.

The list of slaughtered species includes eagles, kites, hawks, cranes, bats, ducks, swifts, swans, geese, gulls, bustards, vultures, owls, grouse and more. Bear in mind reported losses don’t include carcasses claimed by scavenging animals before being recorded, nor bodies either too small or too mangled to be recognizable or even to leave enough remains to be found at all.

Don’t think for a moment that this is a problem restricted to the United States. There is a rising international outcry against these ugly, noisy eyesores that are spreading like cancers across fragile habitats and scenic open spaces around the globe. They’re not just endangering wildlife; they’re also destroying tourism, lowering property values and the quality of life for nearby residents.

I implore readers to click on and actually read the links I’ve provided. The statistics are truly alarming.

Take a look at this OPEN LETTER TO SCOTTISH NATURAL HERITAGE (SNH), co-signed by Professor David Bellamy and Mark Duchamp. According to the preface, “This letter offers a good example of how governments cynically sacrifice our avian biodiversity (and much more) to help wind farm developers. Cheating with science, manipulating mortality predictions, covering up bird & bat-kill statistics; these are current practices in Scotland and most European countries. “

The letter states, “Based on the Koops study, it was estimated that high tension lines in the US could be killing 150 million birds a year, (emphasis: author), according to Mick Sagrillo of the American Wind Energy Association (2003). The same figure is also reported in Avian Collisions with Wind Turbines, a Summary of Existing Studies and Comparisons to Other Sources of Avian Collision Mortality in the United States - Western EcoSystems Technology Inc. (2001).

“Eagles don’t avoid wind turbines : they are attracted to them. In California, Dr Smallwood has observed that golden eagles fly twice as often near wind turbines than they would by chance. This explains why so many collide with the blades, which travel at up to 300 km/h at the tip. Two thousand three hundred golden eagles have been killed that way in California, and you know that: an official report confirms it.”

The letter goes on to say “Bird reserves are not even spared from this destruction. On the Isle of Lewis, for instance, a wind farm is to be built in a designated Important Bird Area ( Park UK224 ), and another in the Lewis Peatlands Special Protection Area (the Pentland Road road windfarm project.)

“How many more eagles and other protected birds will die on Skye and across Scotland on account of new transmission lines built to accommodate wind farms?” the letter asks.

Besides the predictable slaughter of eagles, swans, geese and other birds protected by EU and UK legislations, the Eisgein wind farm may have a detrimental effect on a National Scenic Area, and even possibly on other important tourist attractions such as the Callanish Stones and a unique cultural event : the "Birth of the Moon".

Why is the building of farms being permitted in ecologically sensitive areas such as these?

It seems that the best locations for profitable wind farms are the same open, windswept scenic areas needed by wildlife. In this case, why doesn’t the wind industry just come out and say that this is NOT an ecologically friendly alternative, but they think it’s important enough/produces enough energy, to be worth sacrificing our wildlife and wild lands for?

Because, truly, they would not be able to justify or support this claim with facts.

Mr. Wiegand continues, “Many, including myself, have been claiming an industry wide conspiracy exists to cover-up the staggering number of birds that are killed at wind farms each year. A good illustration of this can be found in this statement I recently pulled off the internet from Wikipeda ‘Danger to birds and bats has been a concern in some locations. However, studies show that the number of birds killed by wind turbines is negligible compared to the number that die as a result of other human activities, and especially the environmental impacts of using non-clean power sources’. . . ”

What’s wrong with this logic? First, through false reporting, they downplay the astronomical numbers of birds and bats killed by wind turbine farms. Second, the convoluted rationale they use is like saying, since so many children die in car wrecks anyway, we don’t need to worry too much about how many children drown in pools. Their statement merely diverts the mortality problem away from the prop turbines.

Jim goes on to say, “What this statement is really saying is that human activity kills a lot of birds so a few more won’t matter. The truth is that the only human activity that targets and chops up a protected species like the Golden Eagle is the prop style wind turbine. Did Wikpedia take this false information from one of the bogus studies put out by the wind industry? YES.”

According to the logic of this professor (the source of the Wikipedia statement, which is read by, and influences, millions of people), “If birds of prey can survive acid rain, nuclear power, mercury poisoning, polluted water and climate change then it is not so bad if we pulverize some of the survivors with a prop wind turbine. This professor does not even talk about the direct impact of putting prop turbines into critical habitats and that by doing so prop turbines target rare and endangered bird species. It should be noted that this highly quoted professor also has no background in wildlife studies. (Emphasis: author). His background is energy policy,” Wiegand says.

Additional studies against wind farms cite:

“Bernd Koop, based on monitoring studies conducted in Holland by Winkelman, estimated there would be 60,000 to 100,000 bird collisions per 1,000 megawatt installed capacity in his country - annually (13) . . ..Applying his estimate to Germany´s 17,000 MW, we obtain: 1,020,000 to 1,700,000 bird collisions per annum. And the closer we are getting to territorial saturation, the lower the chances for migrating birds to find safe routes through the maze, especially if we add the deadly power lines.

"Already, birds in Germany die in great numbers from collisions with 70,000 km of high-tension lines that criss-cross the country - 30 million birds per year is an extrapolation found in Hoerschelmann, Haack & Wohlgemuth, based on a study along 4.5 km of high tension lines - electrocutions excluded (14). - As windfarms need more power lines, this mortality will increase as well; there is already evidence of this : Windfarms - the bird massacre continues. (Please follow this link, photos must be seen; author.)

"The cumulative effect of existing power lines, plus tens of thousands of wind turbines, and yet more high-tension lines to connect the windfarms to the grid, will be severe. The effect on migrating birds will be felt in other European countries, as well as Africa.” (Text provided via private correspondence; Wiegand)

Don’t forget that many of the birds and bats slaughtered by this industry are federally Protected, ESA or CITES Appendix I (Critically Endangered) species. There is no justification for the killing of ANY of them, intentional or not.

If you or I killed any of these animals, we would be fined. In fact, it could be argued that prop-style wind farms should be held accountable for paying all the fines for every individual protected animal killed by their machines.

Why is protecting wildlife important, beyond intrinsic philosophical or altruistic reasons?

Bats pollinate food crops and eat mosquitoes and other insect pests; birds of prey keep rats, mice, venomous snakes and other potential ‘vermin’ in check, all without the use deadly chemicals, yet we are exterminating these beneficial creatures with frightening speed. We can’t afford to risk further jeopardizing our world’s natural balance with more greed-driven technology.

Complicating things still further is the little-publicized fact that wind power is NOT economical in terms of cost to output.

”For the record, here is what the RAE has to say about the true cost of wind power:

"According to research carried out by the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAE), the cheapest electricity, costing just 2.3 pence per unit, will be generated from gas turbines and nuclear power stations, compared with 3.7p for onshore wind and 5.5p for offshore. The Academy also emphasized the need to provide backup for wind energy to cover periods when the wind doesn’t blow. The study assumed the need for about 65% backup from conventional sources, adding 1.7p to the cost of wind power, bringing its price up to two and a half times that of gas or nuclear power." (Emphasis: author.)

"Yet, this very report by De Lucas, biased as it is, is the cornerstone of a drive to place windfarms on migration hotspots in the State of New York (Chautauqua and others). More on this worthless study: Windfarms and Birds - the Chautauqua scandal.” (Text provided via private correspondence; Wiegand.)

Safer and more efficient vertical-shaft wind turbine designs have been developed, but big business interests with large investments in the archaic and deadly prop-style designs are blocking their widespread use. There are even rumors that they may attempt to buy the patents in order to squelch such competing technologies. While still somewhat disruptive to the environment, the vertical-shaft design does not include deadly, spinning blades that are invisible to flying animals, employing, instead, a rotating cylinder that is not only visible and easily avoidable by wildlife, but can even be enclosed in a protective cage without diminishing its efficiency. It also produces about twice the energy of prop-style turbines.

Why isn‘t government mandating the use of these more ecologically-friendly designs? Why isn’t there a response by the industry to the increasing public outcry against the prop-style machines?

“This whole issue typifies why this world is so screwed up. How can the corrupt leaders of industry get a conscience when one is not there? In this question lies the answer,” says Mr. Wiegand.

These wild lands and their fragile, irreplaceable wildlife belong to us all. Our children have a right to experience the sight of magnificent eagles soaring overhead, above a stunning, scenic wild landscape.

For more information or to get involved, visit: European Platform Against Windfarms , National Wind Watch, iberica2000.org or Marc Duchamp Save-The-Eagles

You might also find of interest:

Italy's birds of prey being lost to wind farms

‘Nosey’ bats finally figured out

Gone with the wind; wind farms are wrong answer for wildlife

Border fence is two-edged sword for wildlife

Animals shouldn’t suffer human politics

Wind energy CAN work for wildlife

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Windfarm casualty, Photo courtesy Marc Duchamp, Save-The-Eagles
Photo courtesy Marc Duchamp, Save-The-Eagles
Cathy Taibbi is based in Atlanta, Georgia, United States of America, and is an Anchor on Allvoices.
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