Originally posted at CFACT
By David Wojick
It is clear that the rapid expansion of wind energy is killing more and more birds. It is becoming increasingly clear that it also kills whales and other marine mammals. So the political question is: how much killing is enough before we stop killing any more? This question does not seem to be asked.
The rush to build massive amounts of onshore and offshore wind energy can be devastating for many species. Our focus was on the growing threat to whales and other marine mammals from industrial offshore wind energy.
However, this is only part of a much deeper pattern of runaway wind kills. First, consider the Biden administration’s indifference to the killing of birds on land.
First of all, there is the golden eagle. This majestic species is the largest raptor in western North America, where wind levels are rapidly increasing. Its population is much smaller than that of the well-known bald eagle and may be declining.
The golden eagle is protected under the Eagle Act, as are whales under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Wind turbines require so-called “side permits” issued by the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to kill golden eagles.
It turns out there is a problem, and that is that the wind industry is ignoring the Eagle Act and not getting the permits it needs. I’m not making this up. This is how the FWS puts it:
“For Golden Eagles, a goal of the 2016 Eagle Rule was to improve compliance and improve consistency and efficiency in relation to Golden Eagle approvals for wind energy projects. However, these goals were not achieved. Although the participation of wind energy projects in the permitting program has increased since 2016, it is still well below our expectations. Low application rates and permit processing requirements, which some find burdensome, have resulted in few wind project permits being issued relative to the number of operating wind projects in areas where golden eagles occur. As a result, golden eagles continue to be taken without protective measures being taken to balance this prey.”
Few permits are issued for wind projects that endanger golden eagles, and there are many of them.
Is the Biden FWS threatening to crack down on this wanton lawlessness? Not at all. Instead, they propose making approval easier by making it less effective. Countless multibillion-dollar wind projects think allowing eagle-killing is too “onerous” so the Biden group proposes relaxing it. Damn eagles, full steam ahead.
In fact, the FWS proposal is to do away with site-specific permits and instead create a “general permit” covering all normal wind projects. All a billion-dollar project has to do is sign up and pay a tiny fee, which supposedly somehow mitigates the impending eagle extinction.
Under this general permit, killing eagles is exempt from NEPA, or rather the entire project is as long as killing eagles is the only thing they do. Without EIS it’s certainly faster, but not to the advantage of the Eagles.
The requirement that an independent observer must count the dead eagles is also no longer included in the general permit. We will simply rely on the wind turbine operators (who have not received permits) to let us know when they have killed too many birds.
This is clearly a major political move favoring wind development at the expense of the eagles. Biden said every federal agency should do its best to encourage renewable energy, and this proposal passes that test.
Apart from the eagles, which are relatively few in number, there are the rest of the dead birds. Wind turbines are not called “bird choppers” for nothing. How many birds do we want to kill?
Interestingly, much research was done on this question a decade ago, when the winds were just starting to die down, but very little is left today. A good example is a 2013 article entitled Estimates of Bird Collision Mortality at Wind Facilities in the Contiguous United States, Biological Conservation, Volume 168, December 2013, pages 201-209.
They estimated that around 250,000 birds die each year. With an installed capacity of around 50,000 MW, that is about 5 deaths per MW and year. That’s already a lot of dead birds, but it gets a lot worse when we look at the Biden administration’s goal of “net-zero” emissions.
I recently wrote about a new Tesla analysis of net-zero renewable energy needs. These are huge because not only do they need to provide electricity when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing strong, but they also need to produce enough hydrogen to make our juice when it’s not.
According to Tesla, we need a whopping 2 million MW of wind capacity for net zero. With five bird deaths per MW, that’s an incredible 10 million deaths per year. This would be around 300 million dead birds over the full 30 year lifetime of the general permits proposed by the EWS.
There could be many more when the endless forest of birdchoppers makes dodging impossible. We really need some research on this terrifying prospect.
The vast majority of these dead birds will be songbirds. It is ironic that the environmental movement first gained momentum with Carson’s “Silent Spring,” which warned of the possible extinction of songbirds. Now, as we dive headfirst into environmental industrialization, it seems the circle has come full.
It’s time to ask the political question: How much wind kill do we want? In other words, how much is too much?