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wind farms & bird kill

Here's another exercise in thinking carefully about the question: wind farms & bird kills.

In the US, it's been suggested that up to 40,000 birds might be killed by flying (splat! poof!) into wind farm turbines each year. Figures like this are put forward in arguments against wind farms but - in relation to bird kills - what else would you need to know?

Construction at the Apiti wind farm, near Palmerston North in the Manawatu.

When we talk about this at Schol preparation days, people come up with a whole range of answers: the economics of this form of renewable energy; the fact that the turbines make a noise - & also a visible flicker - that some people find distressing; that some might consider the turbines unsightly (with a flow-on effect on land values). You can probably add to this list. But go back to the question: in relation to bird kills, what else would you need to know?

That generates more focused responses: how many birds fly through that area anyway? Is the proposed farm site anywhere near a main migratory flyway? Is it sited where particularly rare birds might be affected? And how many birds die from other causes?

I don't have data from New Zealand on that one. But in the US:

  • cars & trucks kill 60-80 million birds per year;
  • flying into buildings & windows may result in the deaths of 100-1000 million birds per year;
  • flying into communication towers - 40-50 million per year;
  • domestic & wild cats are estimated to kill up to a billion birds every year.

The more data you have, the easier it is to put a given statement into perspective.

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