There has been a veritable explosion of wind driven energy around the world. Costs have plummeted, construction streamlined, and more governments are subsidizing renewable energy systems, with wind being one of the favorites.
Figure 1: https://www.irena.org/wind
In the past two decades alone, wind farms have increased by a factor of 75, and is bound to increase exponentially. As an ecological consultant, I have been involved with a number of these installations, especially on the universal problem of bird and bat collisions and fatalities. Of all public objections, bird collisions ranks first.
A new analysis (I am in the process of verifying the claims), brings a very necessary corrective to this argument.
Recently, Reve, a Spanish pro windfarm and electric motor forum, published a most interesting article about the ecological damage of wind farms, remedial practices and global correctives and comparison (The Realities of Bird and Bat Deaths by Wind Turbines.)
They show how blades can be marked (painted) to make the turbines more visible, how the footprint of the towers can be modified to lessen raptor fatalities, as well as electronic devices to scare bats.
In the discussion of the merits and demerits of these attempts, a very interesting statistic was discussed, in which they admit and discuss bird fatalities. But then they discuss a most interesting comparison of wildlife fatalities through man-made structures. I quote from this article: “Numerous studies demonstrate that far more bird deaths are caused by collisions with buildings (676 million), vehicles (214 million), and power lines (32 million) in the United States. (It should be taken into consideration, though, that birds killed by wind turbines have historically been of higher conservation value than the robins and sparrows killed by non-wind-related sources.)”.
But then they also discuss the effect of cats, both domestic and feral, on bird populations, and the statistics are shocking, especially to a cat lover like me.
Published in Nature, a highly prestigious scientific journal, they found that in the USA alone, : “We estimate that free-ranging domestic cats kill 1.3–4.0 billion birds and 6.3–22.3 billion mammals annually”. The world figure will be astronomical.
The only reason for me writing this piece, is to remind us that, whatever we construct in nature, do at our homes, and consumer choices we make, will have a measurable environmental impact. But above all, we have to think about this comparatively and keep an open mind. It is all too easy to criticize and complain about wind power, but we should remember that is entirely due to our reckless relationship with the living earth, that this technology is being developed to buffer the atmosphere against further greenhouse gas effusions.