renewables

From Skeptoid: Wind Turbines Save Birds

I just ran across a January episode of Skeptoid about wind turbines and birds. It claims they save (or will save) more birds than they harm — says so right in the conclusion:

Wind turbines and birds are a perfect example of how statistics can be misused. When we trumpet only the number of bird lives lost, and say nothing about the much greater number of bird lives saved, we are being deceptive and abusing the data.

I’m surprised I haven’t heard more about this from the renewable energy advocates or, perhaps, they’re a bit more discerning than I give them credit for.

The Skeptoid post includes the text without ads, although IMO listening to it with its self promotional blurbs and appeals is even funnier. He starts out with the tired explanation that cats kill more birds than wind farms, then buildings, … blah blah blah. He eventually does get to raptors, but not bats, dropping the scientific sounding term “passerines” to sound scientific or skeptical or something:

However, for all of these numbers, the vast majority of birds being killed are passerines — basically songbirds — which exist in numbers large enough that no single source threatens their population (besides global warming). Of greater concern are raptors, due to their smaller numbers, their longer lifespan, and their much lower reproductive rates. Any impact to raptor populations is a significant one from which it’s much harder to recover. And due to the difference in flight behavior between passerines and raptors, raptors are the ones most at risk from wind turbines. Raptors — particularly California Condors, Bald Eagles, and Golden Eagles — are where the US Fish & Wildlife Service and other conservation organizations focus their efforts.

He quotes a position statement from the National Audubon Society. It says they welcome donations from wind power proponents. No it doesn’t say that. I just made that up, but it is the impression I get. It actually starts out:

Audubon strongly supports properly sited wind power as a renewable energy source that helps reduce the threats posed to birds and people by climate change. However, we also advocate that wind power facilities should be planned, sited, and operated in ways that minimize harm to birds and other wildlife, and we advocate that wildlife agencies should ensure strong enforcement of the laws that protect birds and other wildlife.

They explain why they support “properly sited” wind power:

Top scientific experts from around the world, including Audubon’s own scientists, agree that the effects of climate change are happening now and will get worse. Scientists have found that climate change has already affected half of the world’s species’ breeding, distribution, abundance, and survival rates. A review of more than 130 scientific studies found that if climate change proceeds as expected, one in six species worldwide could face extinction.

Audubon’s research shows a particularly stark threat for North American birds: Our Birds and Climate Change Report confirmed that 314 species stand to lose more than 50 percent of their current ranges by 2080.

Audubon and other leaders in the science and conservation space agree that that in order to help prevent species extinctions and other catastrophic effects of climate change, we must significantly reduce pollution from fossil fuels as quickly as possible. This will require rapidly expanding energy efficiency, renewable energy, and alternative fuels and making changes in land use, agriculture, and transportation.

I guess that’s science.

Skeptoid is a podcast created by Brian Dunning who’s always had a somewhat tenuous relationship with left wingers in the skeptics movement. In 2014, he was convicted on a cookie stuffing scheme against Amazon. Here’s his side and the side of a shrill critic. He’s since, become friends with Michael Mann. It looks like he’s trying to appeal to climate alarmists and renewable energy advocates. He smears fossil fuel interests with no evidence:

So if you are hearing that wind farms are bad for birds, you’re not hearing it from the best-informed bird conservationists. You’re more likely hearing it from poorly-informed but well-intentioned amateur wildlife lovers, or even more likely, from fossil fuel interests intent on hampering the renewable energy sector. Wrapping opposition to renewable energy inside a superficially persuasive trojan horse of “wind turbines kill birds” is a devious and effective greenwashing ploy.

He speculates on technological fixes such as radar, thermal cameras and painting wind turbine blades purple to avoid attracting more insects. He’s dropping a knee to the wind industry and maybe an elbow, nose and forehead.

7 thoughts on “From Skeptoid: Wind Turbines Save Birds

  1. Pingback: Check Out my Posts at Cliscep | Canman

  2. Wikipedia says about the Altamont Wind Farm “1300 raptors are killed annually, among them 70 golden eagles, which are federally protected; in total, 4700 birds are killed annually. Overall there has been an 80% decline in golden eagles in Northern California, with no golden eagles nesting near the facility, although it is a prime habitat.”
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Altamont_Pass_wind_farm

    This massacre is attributed to the predominance of smaller wind turbines that have fast moving blades. These are to be replaced by larger turbines with slower moving blades. But perhaps the damage has already been done. I lived for three years in what I would have thought was prime raptor country – in summer dried grass covered hills in which ground squirrels were an absolute pest. Yet nary an eagle did I spot despite hours and hours watching. My neighbours had never seen one either.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Skeptoid’s rationalizations are as convoluted as that of any fundamentalist fanatic justifying a particular dogma of their obsession.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I used to enjoy his podcasts, then I realised something was up when he labeled Heartland as an anti science organisation. Then he went full on green, with the ‘keep it in the ground’ idea – presumably unless you are building wind turbines…

    Full hypocrite, so I gave up listening.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Wind turbines would not get a look in if we were not facing the “problem” of carbon dioxide emissions.

    As I see it, they have two advantages: low or no carbon dioxide emissions in operation, and similarly low or no fuel costs in operation.

    So much for the advantages.

    In the disadvantages column, in no particular order, we have: uncertain numbers of birds killed, uncertain numbers of birds displaced from their habitats, uncertain numbers of bats killed, unreliability, piling noise disturbing cetaceans, low frequency noise ditto, low frequency noise causing nausea in humans living nearby, shadow flicker driving people nearby doolally, no contribution to grid stability or inertia, the requirement for duplication or triplication of power supplies to accomodate them, and in places additional inertial devices, they are generally far from where the electricity is used necessitating stupid lengths of cabling, because they strain such a diffuse energy source from the air they have to blanket the damn place to provide a tad of power.

    Anything else?

    Oh yeh, they get paid more for their power than conventional operators, AND they get paid to not produce power when it’s too windy.

    Like I say, they wouldn’t get a look in to any grid designed by competent engineers unless politicians mandated it.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Another one for the disadvantages column for wind turbines is that as a consequence of the killing of bats, they create a man-made source of potentially virus-laden ‘bat meat’ on the ground beneath them.

    There is a theory that Covid-19 got into humans via ‘stray dogs eating bat meat’, which is described in this news article:

    https://www.mirror.co.uk/science/coronavirus-was-spread-humans-dogs-21864670

    Dogs can sniff out dead bats under a wind turbine, and the people who carry out research into estimating the numbers of bats being killed by wind turbines normally use dogs to find the bats (it’s not as easy to find dead bats as dead birds, because the bats are tiny). I would guess other mammals like mice, badgers and foxes can sniff out dead bats as well.

    Like

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