Why Wind Turbines Kill So Many Birds

 

Wind turbines kill far more birds than a statistical distribution would suggest. There is something deeply attractive to birds about wind turbines.

A few years ago the brilliant Willis Eschenbach explained it. His argument is quite simple: wind turbines murder eagles and other carrion-eaters because wind turbines kill insects:

Based on observations and model calculations, German researchers calculated that each wind turbine kills on the order of 12,000 insects per day, which is some 1,200 tonnes of dead insects per year in Germany alone. And for each bug that is killed, perhaps ten bugs are injured or dazed.

There is a near-vacuum on the back side of the blade. Just going suddenly from normal pressure to near-vacuum can cause a variety of injuries, including bursting the lungs of bats and birds.

So let’s follow the story, starting with the bugs. The turbine is acting like a giant bug-mincer. It is smashing bugs on the leading edges of the blades, just like the smashed bugs you get when you drive down the highway. It is injuring bugs through both turbulence and pressure changes. And it is constantly and invisibly spinning hundreds of both dead and wounded bugs, and lots of smelly bug-juice from the smashed insects, up into the sky.

What happens first, of course, is that the smell of the dead and wounded insects attract lots of other insects. Many insects are scavengers, and so more insects come to feed on the dead insects just like flies drawn to sh … well, you get the idea. So in addition to the bugs killed and wounded, we have all of the other very live bugs eating on them, and flying around between meals.

Now, remember what I said about the frogs eating the flies “before they hit the ground”? What happens next is that large numbers of both bats and insectivorous birds are drawn by the smell of thousands of dead and wounded insects. They do their very best to eat the dead and wounded insects before they hit the ground.

And when you mix large numbers of bats and insectivorous birds on the hunt, somewhat oblivious to their surroundings in pursuit of insect prey, with turbine blade tips going 230 miles an hour, that’s 370 km/hr, the outcome is unavoidable—large numbers of dead and wounded bats and birds.

This leads us to the punchline:

Of course, wherever you have large numbers of dead and wounded bats and birds, you’ll inevitably attract numbers of the large predatory or scavenging birds such as owls, buzzards, vultures, falcons, eagles, kites, buteos, accipiters, and harriers. They come in to eat the living, wounded, or dead birds and bats that came in to eat the living, wounded, or dead bugs … and of course, since these large predators too are on the hunt and somewhat oblivious to their surroundings, when you mix in the high-speed turbine blades the raptors suffer the same fate as the smaller birds, the bats, and the thousands of bugs. Killed and wounded.

All of this handily explains why wind turbines are where birds go for lunch. And as long as the turbine works, it will inevitably attract bugs, birds, and bigger birds. And then chop them up. It is seemingly inexorable. And it is also a fascinating unintended consequence that leads us to the conclusion that if we want to protect these birds we must oppose wind power.

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  1. DonG (CAGW is a Hoax) Coolidge
    DonG (CAGW is a Hoax)
    @DonG

    DonG (CAGW is a Hoax) (View Comment):

    Turbulence is one of the major reason that no industrial wind “farm” produces more than 55% of its rated capacity even in the best conditions.

    I assume that the airflow will go over a sea of turbines just as the air would flow over a forest, rather than through a forest.  I will have to read up on the capacity ratings for turbines. 

    There is something called Betz Limit that tells us that a wind turbine can extract up to 59% of the kinetic energy of the wind passing through its cross section.   Modern wind turbines capture 40% to 50%, which is pretty good.   The most efficient combined cycle turbines (gas/coal) achieve about 45% efficiency in converting thermal energy to electrical. 

    • #31
  2. Steven Seward Member
    Steven Seward
    @StevenSeward

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    MarciN (View Comment):
    Fossil fuel use allows human beings to deliver heat-producing energy where they need it. It disburses the release of heat and electrical energy.

    While releasing CO2 into the air for the trees. They like it, and they’re spreading. Or so I heard on a Delingpod episode from a contrarian scientist.

    I’d like to hear the greenies refute the claim that the earth is greening rapidly, or credit it to something other than fossil fuels if they can, or explain why it’s bad.

    Something I’ve noticed a long time ago is that greenies, environmentalists, and journalists are not capable of acknowledging progress of any  sort.  Some of the non-disputed good news  like the fact that the Earth has been greening for the last 40 years or that the Ozone layer was found to be more robust than previously thought, – these facts get ignored and relegated to the back pages if they are acknowledged at all.

    You would think there would be celebrations in the streets that the world is getting greener, BUT NO.  This is in fact bad news for the environmentalists.  If our environmental problems suddenly disappeared, they would be left with emptiness in their souls because the fight would be over.  It is the “revolution” that is the fulfilling part of environmentalism, fighting for the important cause, not for actually solving anything, especially because most of them have no other religious drive in their lives.   It is no different than Fidel Castro’s entreaties to “Fight for la Revolucion!” fifty years after the damn revolution had been over.  Without the constant battle there would be nothing left to do, no grand world-saving plans.  They’ll have to go back to watching Oprah and Jerry Springer.

    I know this because I’ve “enlightened” a few of these people with the “good news” and all they do is try to find ways of dismissing the news instead of being happy about it.

    • #32
  3. kedavis Inactive
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    DonG (CAGW is a Hoax) (View Comment):

    DonG (CAGW is a Hoax) (View Comment):

    Turbulence is one of the major reason that no industrial wind “farm” produces more than 55% of its rated capacity even in the best conditions.

    I assume that the airflow will go over a sea of turbines just as the air would flow over a forest, rather than through a forest. I will have to read up on the capacity ratings for turbines.

    There is something called Betz Limit that tells us that a wind turbine can extract up to 59% of the kinetic energy of the wind passing through its cross section. Modern wind turbines capture 40% to 50%, which is pretty good. The most efficient combined cycle turbines (gas/coal) achieve about 45% efficiency in converting thermal energy to electrical.

    That seems more like the beginning of the calculations, not the end.

    Extracting 50% of the theoretical energy then goes into the 55% of a wind farm’s rated capacity which would already take into account the 50% of theoretical energy.  So now we’re at a wind farm overall actually producing only 27.5% of theoretical capacity, vs. 45% for gas/coal turbines.  And it goes down from there if there’s less wind or none at all.  Whereas the turbines can produce electricity as long as they have fuel.

    • #33
  4. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Steven Seward (View Comment):
    You would think there would be celebrations in the streets that the world is getting greener, BUT NO.  This is in fact bad news for the environmentalists.  If our environmental problems suddenly disappeared, they would be left with emptiness in their souls because the fight would be over.  It is the “revolution” that is the fulfilling part of environmentalism, fighting for the important cause, not for actually solving anything, especially because most of them have no other religious drive in their lives.   It is no different than Fidel Castro’s entreaties to “Fight for la Revolucion!” fifty years after the damn revolution had been over.  Without the constant battle there would be nothing left to do, no grand world-saving plans.

    The thing is, many are not happy by green advances, not because it might take meaning out of their lives, but because they are watermelons: green on the outside, red on the inside. Their real goal is totalitarian power.

    • #34
  5. Jim McConnell Member
    Jim McConnell
    @JimMcConnell

    Steven Seward (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    MarciN (View Comment):
    Fossil fuel use allows human beings to deliver heat-producing energy where they need it. It disburses the release of heat and electrical energy.

    While releasing CO2 into the air for the trees. They like it, and they’re spreading. Or so I heard on a Delingpod episode from a contrarian scientist.

    I’d like to hear the greenies refute the claim that the earth is greening rapidly, or credit it to something other than fossil fuels if they can, or explain why it’s bad.

    Something I’ve noticed a long time ago is that greenies, environmentalists, and journalists are not capable of acknowledging progress of any sort. Some of the non-disputed good news like the fact that the Earth has been greening for the last 40 years or that the Ozone layer was found to be more robust than previously thought, – these facts get ignored and relegated to the back pages if they are acknowledged at all.

    You would think there would be celebrations in the streets that the world is getting greener, BUT NO. This is in fact bad news for the environmentalists. If our environmental problems suddenly disappeared, they would be left with emptiness in their souls because the fight would be over. It is the “revolution” that is the fulfilling part of environmentalism, fighting for the important cause, not for actually solving anything, especially because most of them have no other religious drive in their lives. It is no different than Fidel Castro’s entreaties to “Fight for la Revolucion!” fifty years after the damn revolution had been over. Without the constant battle there would be nothing left to do, no grand world-saving plans. They’ll have to go back to watching Oprah and Jerry Springer.

    I know this because I’ve “enlightened” a few of these people with the “good news” and all they do is try to find ways of dismissing the news instead of being happy about it.

    You are never going to solve a problem if your livelihood depends upon that problem. Ask anyone who works for the government.

    • #35
  6. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    Pic from Anthony Watts.

    It is against the law to possess any body part (even a feather) of a protected raptor (try finding a rogue taxidermist who will do an eagle or owl) so I guess our idiot government has to set up special secure storage for bird carcasses.

    Reminds me of a bad old joke:

    A park ranger hears a gunshot, looks up, and sees a mortally wounded bald eagle spiraling downward.  He rushes to the spot and accosts a scruffy old man holding the bird carcass and places him under arrest.  The old man pleads for mercy, saying that he and his family are starving and that if allowed to go this will be the last time he kills an eagle.

    Moved to pity, the ranger relents, then asks, “So you’ve done this before?  Tell me, what does eagle taste like?”

    The old man says: “You might find it odd but damn if it doesn’t taste just like spotted owl.”

     

    • #36
  7. Bishop Wash Member
    Bishop Wash
    @BishopWash

    Old Bathos (View Comment):
    It is against the law to possess any body part (even a feather) of a protected raptor (try finding a rogue taxidermist who will do an eagle or owl) so I guess our idiot government has to set up special secure storage for bird carcasses.

    Yep. I remember when someone got crushed for giving Hillary a gift with a bald eagle feather, that she’d found on the ground. This was when Hillary was first lady.

    • #37
  8. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    Bishop Wash (View Comment):

    Old Bathos (View Comment):
    It is against the law to possess any body part (even a feather) of a protected raptor (try finding a rogue taxidermist who will do an eagle or owl) so I guess our idiot government has to set up special secure storage for bird carcasses.

    Yep. I remember when someone got crushed for giving Hillary a gift with a bald eagle feather, that she’d found on the ground. This was when Hillary was first lady.

    I found a Great Horned owl carcass (stupid bird likely got hit by a car diving in the headlight beams within which a rodent probably started moving–happens often, apparently) from which I plucked some feathers.  Some red-Shouldered Hawk feathers for the band in a hat and some eagle wing feathers also once graced my criminal collection.  Suck it, J Edgar. 

    • #38
  9. Jim McConnell Member
    Jim McConnell
    @JimMcConnell

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    Pic from Anthony Watts.

    It is against the law to possess any body part (even a feather) of a protected raptor (try finding a rogue taxidermist who will do an eagle or owl) so I guess our idiot government has to set up special secure storage for bird carcasses.

    Reminds me of a bad old joke:

    A park ranger hears a gunshot, looks up, and sees a mortally wounded bald eagle spiraling downward. He rushes to the spot and accosts a scruffy old man holding the bird carcass and places him under arrest. The old man pleads for mercy, saying that he and his family are starving and that if allowed to go this will be the last time he kills an eagle.

    Moved to pity, the ranger relents, then asks, “So you’ve done this before? Tell me, what does eagle taste like?”

    The old man says: “You might find it odd but damn if it doesn’t taste just like spotted owl.”

     

    That last line would go over great with the (former) loggers of the Pacific Northwest.

    • #39
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