Are wind turbines really good for the environment? The economics, as we know, is often deeply dubious. But in this week’s Spectator, Oxford biological lecturer Clive Hambler reveals another drawback: the slaughter inflicted on birds and bats caught in the blades.
Hambler argues that despite death tolls from numerous sources in various countries, many environmentalists are not being thorough with their questioning of renewable energy. In Britain, this argument isn’t made much — but overseas, as Hambler says, they’re realising the damage inflicted on nature:
‘Every year in Spain alone — according to research by the conservation group SEO/Birdlife — between 6 and 18 million birds and bats are killed by wind farms. They kill roughly twice as many bats as birds. This breaks down as approximately 110–330 birds per turbine per year and 200–670 bats per year. And these figures may be conservative if you compare them to statistics published in December 2002 by the California Energy Commission: ‘In a summary of avian impacts at wind turbines by Benner et al (1993) bird deaths per turbine per year were as high as 309 in Germany and 895 in Sweden.’
Over at the New Statesman, Alex Hern has taken an assiduous look at Hambler’s article and questioned his use of these statistics, arguing they lack context. Comrade Hern notes that in the US nearly 100 million birds are killed annually by domestic/feral cats, 130 million by power lines and 97.6 to 976 million killed per year by collisions with plate glass windows. All of these figures stand up; see this referenced report by the US Department of Agriculture. However, they do nothing to detract from Hambler’s argument.
Firstly, one of the major killers, plate glass windows, have never been sold as an environmentally friendly product, nor have they been championed by eco-activists.