Spinning off recent solar conversations, I became interested in the question of whether energy-generating wind turbines actually contribute measurably to bird deaths. Solar Dude had told me straight up that there were only two confirmed bird kills at Altamont Pass. Meanwhile, commentators on the right have called wind turbines “Cuisinarts of the Sky” and worse. Looking for some actual data, came up with a fairly comprehensive research piece (PDF) at Home Power Magazine.
Summary: Solar Dude lied. There had been 183 bird deaths at Altamont at the time the article was written. But Altamont is apparently unique among wind farms. Most wind farms report ZERO bird deaths. The Altamont paradox is a black eye (and merits continued research), but it is not an argument against wind power in general. Now take this in:
… automobiles are responsible for some 57 million bird deaths every year … More than 97 million birds die by flying into plate glass every year … And about 1.5 million birds die from collisions with structures (such as towers, stacks, bridges, buildings) every year. … Viewed in this context, the 183 bird deaths in the Altamont Pass over a two year period of time is a small number indeed. It will take wind turbines in the Altamont Pass 500 to 1000 years to kill as many birds as the Exxon Valdez oil spill.
6 Replies to “Wind Turbines and Bird Deaths”
Perhaps Altamont has more bird deaths than other wind farms because the pass is a natural choke point for birds. Rather than flying over higher hills, birds prefer to take the easy route by flying through the pass.
Wind turbines in other locations probably don’t see as much bird traffic Altamont, where a pass through a range of hills tends to channel migrating birds right into the turbine farm. Just a thought.
That’s a very good point. The article mentions that most birds migrate at between 1000 and 10000 feet, far higher than any wind tower. As a pass, Altamont may be different, bringing birds lower for prey etc. Also there are interesting psych differences between the way raptors respond to obstacles vs. other birds – and it’s almost all raptors dying at Altamont.
I’d heard that the Twin Towers were a real death trap for birds if they got in between them.
Just found your site and thought I’d add a pointer to another article with some empiracle data.
To summarize, most wind turbine sites have few to no kills from surveys. The Altamont is unique in a number of respects. They are older and faster spinning turbines with no clearance between the blades and the ground. They are mounted on tripods which give good roosts for predatory birds and there is an ubundance of prey in the grass under the turbines. There are plans to replace the tripods with single enclosed and higher structures and newer, slower turbines.
One more URL. The DOE study on Altamont. A ton of good information. Basically with over 5000 turbines in use, Altamont kills 1000+ birds a year or 0.19 birds/turbine/year. The problem seems to be the abundance of prey in the tall grasses around the towers. Larger and taller towers will not solve the problem. There is a direct correlation between area swept by the turbine blades and bird deaths.
Im not to sure that i believe you!!!!
I am doing a school project at the moment to argue the pros and cons of wind turbines! please can u send me some photographic evidence of these tragic deaths!