Hiding the wind turbine bird slaughter: Part I
How bad is the slaughter, really? What tricks does the wind industry use to hide it?
August 26, 2013
by Jim Wiegand
A “green energy” wildlife genocide is depopulating wildlife habitats across the world where vital species once found refuge. Wind turbines have invaded these habitats and are devastating bird and bat species.
Rather than avoiding these critical habitats or taking steps to minimize impacts on important species, the heavily subsidized wind industry is responding by producing faulty, misleading and even fraudulent documents to hide the serious and growing mortality. This situation has continued for years but has been shielded by state and federal agencies and other supporters of wind power.
Having studied these installations and their wildlife impacts for years, I can say without reservation that most of what people hear and read about the wind industry’s benefits and environmental costs is false. However, buried in thousands of pages of wind industry documents are data, omissions and calculations that tell a wind turbine mortality story that is far different from what is portrayed in industry press releases, mainstream news stories and official government reports.
I have frequently said the wind industry is hiding over 90% of the bird and bat mortality caused by their turbines. This statement is supported by the industry’s own data and reasonable adjustments for its manipulations. These calculations will help people understand how the industry is using its studies to hide millions of fatalities; they will also help local residents and officials understand “wind farm” impacts and their role in species extinctions that could soon exact an irreversible toll in many regions.
Go to Jim Wiegand’s original article on Master Resource.org
My analysis focuses on two North American wind resource areas that are well known for killing raptors, other birds and bats: Altamont Pass in southern California and Wolfe Island in eastern Lake Erie, on the Ontario-New York border. While studies prepared for these two wind resource are quite different, both were designed to hide mortality. Indeed, hiding mortality is an industry-wide practice, and it is easy to discredit any mortality or cumulative impact study produced by wind energy developers.
The Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area (APRWA) provides an excellent introduction to this problem. Its environmental impacts have been well publicized, and the wind industry wants to replace small older 50- and 100-kilowatt turbines with huge 2.5-megawatt turbines that it claims are safer. This claim is without merit. Industry studies used to promote the plan are deeply flawed and the much larger 2.3 MW class turbines will add more than twice the deadly rotor sweep to Altamont along with much faster blade tip speeds.
Fatal Attraction: Birds and Wind Turbines
Probably more studies have been conducted in Altamont Pass than at any other wind farm in the world. Unfortunately, however, the wind industry has used that information and lessons from the public relations firestorms those studies ignited to develop clever methods for hiding bird and bat mortality impacts.
One of the most effective methods is limiting searches for dead and injured wildlife to progressively smaller areas around increasingly larger turbines – thereby omitting increasing numbers of fatalities as larger turbines catapult birds and bats further, often into grass, brush and wooded areas.
For the relatively small 50-100 kW turbines at Altamont, roughly 85% of fatalities can be found within a 50-meter search radius, which suggests that this radius is appropriate if the missing 15% are accounted for. But even with these turbines, industry-paid researchers are able to hide Altamont’s true mortality figures by employing improper study methodologies, raw data manipulation and inaccurate methods for estimating annual death tolls.
All wind turbine mortality studies find bodies. It is how carcass counts are conducted and interpreted that renders the process faulty or fraudulent – while also enabling the wind energy industry to claim it has satisfied commitments to reduce bird and bat mortality, and thereby justify installing much larger (and potentially deadlier) wind turbines. Comparing earlier and more recent studies illustrates how this is done.
In a 1998-2003 study, raptor carcasses were found in searches conducted about six weeks apart. Analysts then developed and applied numerical factors designed to account for the fact that on-the-ground teams were likely to find only a certain percentage of all dead and injured birds and bats; some wounded individuals would crawl off and die elsewhere; and coyotes, ravens and other scavengers would remove and eat many turbine victims. Applying those factors to actual carcass counts, researchers calculated that Altamont turbines were killing 116 golden eagles per year (an average of 10.8 times the actual carcass count per year) Wind turbine mortality for red-tail hawks, burrowing owls and American kestrels were likewise estimated using factors of 7 to 28 times actual body counts.
The study demonstrated that Altamont wind turbines were having a devastating impact on Diablo Range populations of raptors and other birds. It explained why many nests were no longer occupied and why fewer and fewer of these species were seen in succeeding years around the Bay area foothills. As a result of this impact the wind industry realized it had to reduce the death tolls dramatically – or at least make it appear that the tolls were decreasing to minimize public outrage.