Windmills and Birds

To: <>
Subject: Windmills and Birds
From: "Tim Murphy" <>
Date: Wed, 25 Jan 2006 14:48:11 +1000
All the evidence is that we are close to Peak Oil - and may well be past it
within a 4 year margin of error  - look at or one
of the numerous Yahoo Groups. (See for some suggestions. Roeoz
 will give a local flavour.)

Peak Natural Gas is about ten years behind. Believe it or not, we'll get to
Peak Coal and Peak Uranium fairly quickly as well.

While wind or solar depends on the wind blowing or the sun shinning - that
will probably be all we'll get. We'll have to get used to a far less energy
intensive life style.  Conservation will be forced on us. No more driving
and flying 160,000 kms to see 702 birds - we have to let them come to us.

Tim Murphy

PS. My favorite energy source, for what it is worth,  is Sterling Engines in
the desert. Relatively low tech and Australia has a lot of deserts. I can't
think that they'd be much danger to the Gibber Chats.
  -----Original Message-----
 Behalf Of Dave Torr
  Sent: Wednesday, 25 January 2006 2:08 PM
  To: Bill Stent
  Cc: Birding-Aus (Forum)
  Subject: Re: [BIRDING-AUS] Windmills and Birds

  I suspect we are getting a little off the mainstream of birding, but I
will throw a few thoughts in.

  Fossil fuels seem capable - at least with coal - of lasting for some
considerable time. There are of course pollution issues which may or may not
be solved by the "geosequestration" favoured by the current government.

  Nuclear is not cheap but - like it or not - a lot of people use it, and as
a major exporter of uranium  (with a strange and inconsistent policy on
mining it) we play our part in that industry.

  I think there is little scope for more hydro here - not that many places
left to dam and the protests would be huge!

  Little prospect of tidal here, although wave may be an option?

  Wind and solar have their place to pay, but neither are suitable for "base
load" generation as the wind doesn't always blow (except here in Werribee)
and the sun doesn't always shine - not even in Queensland.

  Geothermal seems promising - I read an article the other day (can't find
it now of course) and there is a lot of potential there in some areas.

  Conservation MUST play a role - whether by moving to smaller cars or
better insulation.

  Overall I suspect Bill is right and that it will be hard to wean people of
consuming large amounts of energy - although as prices rise there will be
some moves in this direction. For the rest there is no single answer - we
will get a mixture of technologies all of which have plus and minus points -
although I have yet to hear too many minus for geothermal?

  On 1/25/06, Bill Stent <> wrote:

    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
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