Windmills and Birds

To: "Birding-Aus (Forum)" <>
Subject: Windmills and Birds
From: "Bill Stent" <>
Date: Wed, 25 Jan 2006 14:42:20 +1100

Are you serious about preferring nuclear?!

I'm not an electrical engineer, nor a civil engineer, but a plain
economist, so please take this - what can only be described as a rant -
in the correct context.

It seems clear that the world cannot go on using fossil fuels.  Either
they'll run out, or the environmental damage is going to continue to

However, the nuclear option isn't much more attractive.  While the
probability of catastrophic accident is low, it's clearly not zero, as
not only evidenced by Chernobyl, but also Three-Mile Island, as well as
a number of other incidents such as Sellafield (Windscale), and the
consequences of these accidents are truly awful.  What's more, the costs
associated with avoiding accidents means that, rather than being the
ultra-cheap source of electricity we thought it was going to be in the
1950s, whole-of-life costs for a fission reactor, including building,
operation, waste disposal and site remediation mean the total costs of
the electricity are very high.

Wind farms aren't cheap.  Because they provide a relatively small
output, they travel in groups, and ideally would be placed in the most
windy spots, followed by the second most windy.  This means that their
effectiveness would decrease as they are deployed.

Neither are wind farms totally safe, to birds or to humans.  There are
always going to be potential problems.  However, to be comparable with
the Chernobyl event, wind farms would have to collide with five to six
fully-laden jumbo jets to rack up the same score (of about 2500 in the
first month).  Further, I've yet to hear of any long-term health risks
posed by wind farms.  I suspect that a number of birds died following
Chernobyl, probably to the same level as humans.  Wind farms may be more
efficient at killing birds than nuclear plants, but nuclear is not
entirely bird-safe.  Careful placement of the wind generator is probably
going to be an effective method of decreasing the number of bird kills.
Some work has been done on this, I seem to recall from postings on this
subject a year or two ago.

However, the question is what is the best way to feed demand for energy.
I don't think that reducing demand is going to happen, as Western
societies are hopelessly addicted to energy.  Apart from a few rogue
states such as Victoria, the expansion of fossil fuelled generation is
less likely due to environmental considerations, leaving nuclear and
renewable sources such as wind, wave, or direct solar power generation.

Functionally, power generation of wind farms is more responsive to
demand, as they can be switched on and off quickly.  This is different
to turbine-based power generation methods, such as coal-fired, gas-fired
and fission nuclear power stations.  The only comparable large-scale
generation method we have is hydroelectricity, which is limited by water
availability, and is unable to provide a significant percentage of
Australia's needs.

Wind farms aren't seen by everyone as aesthetic, either.  Having first
come across them in Denmark in the 1980s, I associate them with a sense
of Danish minimalism, and find that very aesthetic.  I'd have one in my
neighbourhood.  However, I don't expect everyone to go along with my
taste.  However, once again, the alternatives are no better.  Power
stations, with smoke stacks and condensation towers, hardly enhance the

Perhaps we should be asking ourselves what would the birds prefer - or
maybe, even wider, to anthropomorphosise, what would the planet prefer?
The whole argument - indeed, the whole of life - is about options: what
the alternatives are.

Bill Stent

-----Original Message-----
 On Behalf Of Chris Corben
Sent: Wednesday, 25 January 2006 11:33 AM
To: Birding-Aus (Forum)
Subject: Windmills and Birds

I do know a bit about WindFarms and their impact on bats.

I can also tell you that Altamount Pass in California kills over 100
Eagles per year. Whether or not this is a significant loss depends on
many Golden Eagles pass through there each year, and I don't know the
to that - so such mortality could range from terribly serious to
innocuous depending on other factors which, at least from my limited
perspective, do not seem to be well understood. But the mortality is
certainly there, and there has been work done on bats showing
mortalities of
thousands of individuals per year at certain sites.

> The setups that seem to have the highest mortalities are the masses of
> closely spaced, relatively small generators with high blade speeds set
> mountain passes.  The much larger, widely spaced generators with
> blade speeds used in Aus seem to pose much less of a threat to bird

>From what I have heard, this sounds wrong. The tips of the large blades
moving very fast - I have heard figures in the vicinity of 200 KPH! This
far faster than anything nature has had to contend with until the last
years! The impression I have gained from hearing people in the thick of
subject, is that ever larger turbines are going to be the norm, and that
kill rates are likely to increase as a consequence.

I was worried to hear of plans to site a windfarm in Orange-bellied
habitat in Victoria. It won't take much mortality of a species like that
have a devastating effect, and OBPs often fly at heights which will
them into range of the turbines. Kill 1 a month and the impact will mean
something! It's a shame that many people view windfarms as a relatively
green way to generate electricity, yet the more I hear about them, the
attractive nuclear options sound! Unfortunately, it looks like windfarms
going to sprout up all over the USA - I am sure we will soon find
sick of the sight of them!

Cheers, Chris.
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