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Conservation or Green Energy? Today, They’re Enemies

Sand Martin: Photo 172270907 / Bank Swallow © Sander Meertins | Dreamstime.com

[Originally published as Slaughtering Species in the Name of “Green Energy”]

Nine years ago, I wrote about a study that indicated wind turbines in the U.S. kill more than half a million birds and more than 800,000 bats each year. Five years later, I wrote about another study that indicated wind farms act as apex predators in the ecosystem where they are built.

While very little of this important information makes its way into the popular press, it has informed those who actually care about the environment. As a result, more studies have been done, and these studies indicate something rather surprising about two of the “green energy” solutions that have been promoted to “save our planet.”

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So far, the most chilling study was published in Royal Society Open Science. The authors of the study collected feathers of dead birds found at selected wind farms and solar energy facilities in California. They found that of the many species killed by these “green energy” sites, 23 are considered priority bird species, which means their long-term survival is threatened.

The list is quite diverse, including the American white pelican, the willow flycatcher, the bank swallow, and the burrowing owl.

Now, just because a species is threatened doesn’t mean a few extra deaths are going to be a problem. After all, these facilities are in specific places, and bird populations can cover wide geographical regions. A few extra deaths in some regions can be compensated for by more reproductivity in other regions. Thus, the authors used models to estimate the impact that deaths from wind farms and solar facilities will have on the overall populations. They conclude:

This study shows that many of the bird species killed at renewable energy facilities are vulnerable to population or subpopulation-level effects from potential increases in fatalities from these and other anthropogenic mortality sources. About half (48%) of the species we considered were vulnerable, and they spanned a diverse suite of taxonomic groups of conservation concern that are resident to or that pass through California.

In other words, the study indicates that 11 priority bird species that live in or pass through California are now more at risk because of “green energy” sites in that state.

Now, of course, this conclusion is model-dependent, and the models might be wrong. However, at minimum, this study identified with certainty that at least 23 species of threatened birds are being slaughtered at wind farms and solar facilities. This should cause people who actually care about the natural world at least some concern. Unfortunately, even though this study was published a month ago, I haven’t seen a single report about it in the popular press.

As an aside, it’s pretty obvious how wind farms kill birds, but how do solar energy facilities do it? The short answer is that we don’t know.

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What we do know is that birds tend to crash into solar panels.

Perhaps they interpret the shiny surface of the solar panels as a body of water where they can land. Perhaps they interpret it as more sky. Whatever the reason, we know that birds are dying at solar farms. Preliminary research indicates that in the U.S., somewhere between 37,800 and 138,600 die each year as a result of crashing into solar panels.

So what’s the take-home message from this study? It’s rather simple:

The “green energy” solutions touted by politicians and the press are not necessarily better for the environment.

The fact is, that “green energy” processes are mostly new, so their long-term effects on the environment are mostly unknown. Ten years ago, no one would have thought that wind farms and solar facilities might be threatening the long-term survival of certain bird species. We now know otherwise.

And don’t forget the bats. The effect that wind farms have on their populations hasn’t been studied in nearly as much detail, even though more bats are slaughtered by wind farms than birds!

Those who are pushing “green energy” might actually be pushing environmentally-hostile energy without even knowing it. That’s what happens when those who call themselves “environmentalists” ignore science and simply follow the politicians and the press.

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Written by Jay Wile

As a scientist, it is hard for me to fathom anyone who has scientific training and does not believe in God. Indeed, it was science that brought me not only to a belief in God, but also to faith in Christianity. I have an earned Ph.D. from the University of Rochester in nuclear chemistry and a B.S. in chemistry from the same institution. blog.drwile.com

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  1. I knew metal windmills are not as good for the environment as is often claimed, but I did not know they kill so many birds. This is definitely an issue scientists and the general public alike should look into.

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