What’s black and white, red all over, and comes to mind when you think of endangered species?
No, it’s not your local newspaper. It’s the white blades of a wind turbine stained with the blood of bats, high-conservation-value birds and various insects.
According to the Audubon Society (audubon.org/news) an estimated 140,000 to 500,000 bird deaths occur each year due to wind turbines, deaths which are “substantial,” they argue, “but significantly less than deaths caused by outdoor cats and building collisions.” Of course, most birds killed by cats are small, like sparrows, not the much-vaunted large migratory birds like the bald eagle and red-tailed hawk. You’ll never see a cat eating a hawk. In a confrontation between the two, bet on the hawk.
Still, Audubon strongly supports wind energy. Forget its mission “to protect birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow … for the benefit of humanity and the Earth’s biological diversity.”
After all, a half million endangered birds served up by a wind-driven Cuisinart on steroids is a small price to pay for saving the planet.
Of course, wind turbines aren’t the only green man-made predators of wildlife. There’s also solar power, the most notorious for killing birds being the Ivanpah solar plant in California’s Mojave Desert.
Most solar farms use photovoltaic panels on a large scale, but Ivanpah uses 5 square miles of giant mirrors to catch the sun and focus its beams onto three 40-story towers. The heat around the towers reaches about 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Light attracts insects and insects attract birds. As the birds fly into the concentrated beams of sunlight, they spontaneously burst into flames. The sight is so common that workers at the plant have taken to calling the smoldering birds “steamers” due to the white puff of smoke they leave behind as they burn in the sky. Federal biologists estimate upwards of 6,000 birds are killed per year.
These desert solar plants even attract migratory water birds which sometimes veer miles out of their way to head for solar facilities as they mistake the broad glare and expanse of the solar panels for water. Many dive at what they perceive to be lakes only to die from blunt force trauma.
A study done at the University of Maryland’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources found that temperatures around a solar power plant were 5.4-7.2 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than nearby wildlands.
There was another problem Ivanpah faced. In its effort to keep other animals out of the facility, the plant installed a fence large enough to keep out endangered desert tortoises, but this only made it easier for coyotes to kill roadrunners. Well, all I can say is beep-beep and hakuna matata. It’s all just the circle of life, right?
I don’t doubt that there is climate change. From what I understand, the climate has always been changing. Scientists tell us that as little as 6,000 years ago, the vast Sahara Desert was covered in grassland that received plenty of rainfall until weather patterns shifted. The shift must have been natural. Disney cartoons aside, I’m sure there were never any lions driving jeeps back then. What troubles me is the general hysteria promoted by latter day Jeremiahs croaking about how we are all doomed, promising an apocalypse that never occurs. They say they want to save the planet, but I wonder how a device emitting enough heat to barbecue birds in mid-flight is helping to fight global warming
Naturally, turbines and solar panels are weather dependent. The sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow. When that happens – or in this case, doesn’t – wildlife gets a temporary reprieve, but not enough to keep down the slaughter. The American Bird Conservancy predicts that potentially one million birds per year will be killed by 2030 if the U.S. meets its goal of 20% wind energy.
I’m not averse to any energy that lowers Co2 emissions, but, it looks as if new solutions always breed new problems and those solutions seem to come at the expense of other species who share the planet with us. Or has “biodiversity” suddenly become irrelevant?
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