Let’s take the average of the results from these research rather than going down the proverbial rabbit hole to figure out which study is the most accurate. This puts the number of birds killed by wind turbines in the United States in 2012 at at 366,000.
It’s worth noting that wind energy capacity has increased dramatically since then. Loss and colleagues found that there were 44,577 turbines in service in 2012, but the U.S. Wind Turbine Database shows that there are now 65,548 – a 47 percent increase. After accounting for the industry’s expansion, we estimate that about 538,000 birds die each year in the United States as a result of wind turbines.
However, because it takes into account the size of turbines as well as their number, mortality projections based on energy produced are more commonly utilized. According to the American Wind Energy Association, wind energy capacity in the United States increased by 86 percent from 60,067 megawatts (MW) in 2012 to 111,808 MW as of this writing in 2021. Taking this shift into account, it is estimated that 681,000 birds are killed by wind turbines in the United States each year.
Because many bird deaths go unnoticed by humans, these estimates are likely to underestimate the full scope of the problem.
Consider that little songbirds are the most common birds in the United States, and they are also the most commonly killed by turbines. At two wind sites in California, canines identified 1.6 and 2.7 times as many small bird mortality as human monitors, according to a research published in March 2020. Even after attempting to adjust for searcher detection error, which is normal practice in such investigations, this remained true.
Small birds accounted for 62.5 percent of the birds in the Erickson study’s data set. Taking 62.5 percent of the 681,000 annual mortality estimate and multiplying it by the 1.6- and 2.7-fold multipliers from the dog search study (along with the other 37.5 percent of birds), the total number of birds would be 936,000 and 1.4 million, respectively, based on the numbers from the two sites. By averaging the two, it’s estimated that 1.17 million birds are killed each year in the United States by wind turbines.
Wind generating projects have substantial secondary effects that must be considered in addition to the bird deaths mentioned above.
Many wind farms, for example, are positioned far from the current power infrastructure, necessitating the building of new powerlines, which adds to bird death.
Researchers estimated that 25.5 million birds are killed each year by accidents with powerlines, with another 5.6 million killed by electrocutions, according to a 2014 study. As a result, powerlines installed solely to connect new wind facilities to the existing energy grid result in extra bird deaths, which should be added into the total number of birds killed as a result of wind energy development.
Wind farms also necessitate a sizable amount of land. Facility development can fragment or otherwise alter habitat, making it unsuitable for species that have previously thrived there. For example, after one year, a study at wind farms in the Dakotas discovered displacement impacts for seven of nine grassland bird species. While these effects have been shown in a number of research, they have yet to be quantified at a large scale.
When the foregoing facts are reviewed, it becomes evident that current estimates of the toll of wind energy development on birds are limited and do not take into account the industry’s complete impact.
The estimations above are imperfect since they are based on research that were produced from an incomplete data collection.
While most wind farms are required to undertake bird surveys in order to influence project planning and post-construction bird fatality studies, they are not always required to share their findings, and many businesses keep their data confidential. Bird mortality could be better understood if this statistics were made publicly available, and conservation prescriptions could be adapted accordingly.
On a similar point, the species that are harmed by wind turbines must be taken into account. Others species are more vulnerable to accidents with wind turbines than others, and some have slower rates of reproduction, thus losses may have a greater impact on their populations. California Condors and Marbled Murrelets, two of our rarest and most iconic species, fall into this category and are at risk of colliding with wind turbines. Others, such as Whooping Cranes, are losing their habitat due to wind energy development.
As previously stated, our estimates indicate that the annual toll of birds killed by wind turbines in the United States is at least half a million, and an equally conservative estimate puts the figure at almost 700,000 birds. There’s an argument to be made that the figure could be higher than one million. These are all likely to be underestimates for the reasons indicated above.
Regardless of the details, this is much too many when one considers the numerous other risks to birds on the landscape, as well as the significant declines in bird populations that have already occurred.
What is the answer to this puzzle? How can we continue to build wind turbines to combat climate change while also killing birds? Bird-Smart Wind Energy is our solution. To avoid high-risk locations for birds, smart wind energy production begins with effective data collecting and suitable siting. The available mitigation measures can then be implemented to further reduce risks, and the effects should always be mitigated by strong on-the-ground mitigation measures.
Wind turbines kill more birds than anything else.
More birds are killed by feral cats, domestic cats, oil pits, poison, automobiles, power lines, and cell phone towers than by wind turbines.
Buildings with glass windows are the second-deadliest human-related cause of bird death, after cats. Every year, almost 600 million birds in the United States perish as a result of collisions with them.
In the energy-production industry, wind turbines aren’t even the leading cause of bird mortality. According to the Fish and Wildlife Service, oil pits kill 500,000 to 1 million birds each year. That’s more than twice the number of birds as wind turbines.
Birds are drawn to oil pits in the mistaken belief that they are ponds, only to become trapped inside. Companies that left oil pits exposed for birds to become entangled in during President Barack Obama’s administration might face fines and criminal charges under the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
Wind turbines: Are they Harmful to Birds?
Wind power is a critical source of renewable, carbon-free energy for replacing and reducing emissions from fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas, which contribute to global warming.
While wind energy benefits birds on a global scale by reducing climate change, direct collisions with turbines and other structures, such as power lines, can damage birds. Wind farms can also degrade or destroy habitat, cause disruption and relocation, and disrupt crucial biological connections. Putting wind turbines in the way of migratory routes exacerbates the problem, particularly for larger turbine blades that may reach up into the typical flight zone of night-migrating birds. Turbine collisions kill an estimated 140,000 to 500,000 birds per year, which is a large number but far less than mortality caused by outdoor cats or building collisions.
- Wind energy planning at the federal, state, and local levels in “low impact” locations where permission is more efficient.
- Federal and state regulations ensure proper siting and operation of wind farms and equipment.
- New technologies are being developed to assist reduce the amount of harm done to birds and other wildlife.
- Existing wildlife protection laws, such as the Endangered Species Act, the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, must be strictly enforced.
How can you prevent birds from being killed by wind turbines?
A simple coat of black paint could be the secret to lowering the number of birds killed by wind turbines each year. A research conducted at a wind farm on the Norwegian archipelago of Smla found that changing the color of a single turbine blade from white to black reduced the frequency of bird deaths by 70%.
Wind power is booming right now, with over 60 gigawatts of additional generating capacity added globally in 2019. Wind power is consistently cheaper than burning fossil fuels as long as the turbines are placed correctly. And the majority of people would rather live near a wind farm than any other type of electricity plant, including solar.
However, owing of their impact on local populations of flying wildlife such as birds and bats, not everyone is a fan of wind turbines. Politicians with a vendetta against renewable energy argue that because of the avian death toll, we should continue to mine coal and extract oil, and US President Donald Trump has referred to wind farms as “bird graveyards.” According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, approximately 300,000 birds were killed by wind turbines in 2015 (roughly two orders of magnitude fewer than die each year as a result of colliding with electrical power lines), and bird deaths from turbines are on the decline as the industry transitions to larger, slower-moving blades.
Wind-related bird deaths may have been exaggerated at the time, but they still happen. Birds may not be very good at identifying barriers when flying, according to previous laboratory studies, therefore adding visual signals like various colored fan blades can improve birds’ chances of spotting a swiftly revolving fan.
Between 2006 and 2013, frequent inspections of four specific wind turbineseach 70 meters tall with three 40-meter-long bladesfound six white-tailed eagle carcasses in the Smla wind farm. Over the course of six years, the four turbines killed 18 birds that flew into the blades, as well as five willow ptarmigans, which have been known to collide with the turbine towers rather than the blades. (Over the same time period, another four turbines chosen as a control group were responsible for seven bird deaths, excluding willow ptarmigans.)
As a result, each of the four turbines in the test group received a single black blade in 2013. Only six birds were found dead after impacting their turbine blades in the three years that followed. The four control wind turbines, on the other hand, recorded 18 bird deaths, a 71.9 percent drop in the annual fatality rate.
When I dug a little more into the statistics, I discovered that bird deaths differed depending on the season. There were fewer bird deaths at the painted turbines in the spring and autumn. However, throughout the summer, bird mortality increased at the painted turbines, and the authors point out that the study’s limited sample size and short duration both call for longer-term replication studies, both at Smla and elsewhere.
Is it true that wind turbines are harmful to the environment?
Wind energy, like all energy sources, has the potential to harm the environment by reducing, fragmenting, or degrading habitat for wildlife, fish, and plants. Additionally, rotating turbine blades might endanger flying fauna such as birds and bats. Because of the potential for wind power to have a negative impact on wildlife, and because these difficulties could delay or prevent wind development in high-quality wind resource areas, impact reduction, siting, and permitting issues are among the wind industry’s top goals.
WETO supports in projects that strive to describe and understand the impact of wind on wildlife on land and offshore to address these concerns and encourage environmentally sustainable growth of wind power in the United States. Furthermore, through centralized information hubs like Tethys, WETO engages in operations to collect and disseminate scientifically rigorous peer-reviewed studies on environmental consequences. The office also invests in scientific research that allows for the development of cost-effective technology to reduce wildlife impacts at both onshore and offshore wind farms.
WETO strives to foster interagency collaboration on wind energy impacts and siting research in order to ensure that taxpayer monies are used wisely to solve environmental challenges associated with wind deployment in the United States.
- For more than 24 years, the office has supported peer-reviewed research, in part through collaborative relationships with the wind industry and environmental groups including the National Wind Coordinating Collaborative (NWCC) and the Bats and Wind Energy Cooperative.
- The NWCC was established in 1994 by the DOE’s wind office in collaboration with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to investigate a wide range of issues related to wind energy development, such as transmission, power markets, and wildlife impacts. The NWCC’s focus has evolved over the last decade to addressing and disseminating high-quality information about environmental impacts and remedies.
- In May 2009, the Department of Energy’s wind office announced approximately $2 million in environmental research awards aimed at decreasing the hazards of wind power development to vital species and habitats. Researchers from Kansas State University and the NWCC’s Grassland Community Collaborative published a paper in 2013 that revealed wind development in Kansas had no significant impact on the population and reproduction of larger prairie chickens.
- The Bats and Wind Energy Cooperative has been involved in numerous research projects funded by DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory since its inception in 2003, including studies evaluating the impact of changing the cut-in-speed of wind turbines (the minimum wind speed at which wind turbines begin producing power) and the use of ultrasonic acoustic deterrents to reduce bat impacts at wind turbines.
- Through a competitive funding opportunity, WETO is also financing research and development projects that increase the technical preparedness of bat impact mitigation and minimization solutions. Bat Conservation International, Frontier Wind, General Electric, Texas Christian University, and the University of Massachusetts are among the companies, universities, and organizations receiving funding from the Energy Department to field test and evaluate near-commercial bat impact mitigation technologies, which will provide regulators and wind facility owners-operators with viable and cost-effective tools to reduce bat impacts.
- Through a competitive funding opportunity, WETO is also financing research and development projects that increase the technical preparedness of bat impact mitigation and minimization solutions. Bat Conservation International, Frontier Wind, General Electric, Texas Christian University, and the University of Massachusetts are among the companies, universities, and organizations receiving funding from the Energy Department to field test and evaluate near-commercial bat impact mitigation technologies, which will provide regulators and wind facility owners-operators with viable and cost-effective tools to reduce bat impacts. The Status and Findings of Developing Technologies for Bat Detection and Deterrence at Wind Facilities webinars hosted by the National Wind Coordinating Collaborative provide project updates and testing findings as of March 2018.
- WETO chose six teams in 2016 to work on improving solutions that will safeguard eagles that share airspace with wind turbines. For breakthrough, vital eagle-impact minimization technology research and development projects, more nearly $3 million was allocated across the six teams. The research financed by this grant will equip wind farm owners and operators with practical and cost-effective strategies for reducing potential eagle impacts. This important study expands on the Energy Department’s efforts to facilitate wind energy deployment while also ensuring animal coexistence by addressing siting and environmental concerns. If the study is successful, it will safeguard wildlife while also giving new tools for the wind industry to reduce regulatory and financial concerns.
- WETO is a supporter of research on biological interactions with offshore wind turbines. With this funding, researchers are gathering crucial data on marine life, offshore bird and bat behavior, and other factors that influence the deployment of offshore wind turbines in the United States. The Biodiversity Research Institute and a diverse group of collaborators, for example, completed the largest ecological study ever conducted in the Mid-Atlantic to produce a detailed picture of the environment in Mid-Atlantic Wind Energy Areas, which will aid permitting and environmental compliance for offshore wind projects.
WETO also collaborates with other federal agencies to create recommendations to help developers comply with statutory, regulatory, and administrative requirements for wildlife protection, national security, and public safety. The Wind Energy Technologies Office, for example, collaborated with the Department of the Interior on the Land-Based Wind Energy Guidelines and Eagle Conservation Plan Guidance.
What is the leading cause of bird extinction?
According to the data, cats are the No. 1 bird killer by a long shot, killing nearly 2.4 billion birds every year on average. Buildings come in second with approximately 600 million deaths, followed by autos with nearly 200 million.
Are solar panels harmful to birds?
Scientists estimate that between 37,800 and 138,600 birds die in the United States each year as a result of all forms of solar energy production, compared to the 14.5 million birds killed by fossil fuel power plants.
What are some of the disadvantages of wind turbines?
Wildlife has been known to be harmed by wind turbines. When flying birds and bats collide with the blades that turn on the fanlike framework of wind turbines while they are spinning, they may be hurt or killed. The deaths of birds and bats at wind farm installations is a contentious issue that has alarmed fish and animal conservation groups. Aside from wildlife that soars through the air, noise pollution from spinning blades may have an impact on animals on the ground. While wind turbines can be harmful to wildlife, other structures such as skyscrapers and enormous windows are similarly dangerous and continue to be built despite public outrage.
Why do birds die as a result of wind turbines?
The Obama administration is allowing the “taking” (killing) of bald and golden eagles over a 30-year period. The massive birds will be killed “accidentally” by lethal wind turbines put in their breeding territory and “dispersion regions,” where their young congregate (e.g. Altamont Pass). A current government research claims that wind farms will kill “just” 1.4 million birds year by 2030, by accident (if you believe in coincidences). This new analysis is one of many, funded by taxpayers, aimed at persuading the public that the increased mortality caused by wind farms is acceptable. It isn’t the case.
Dr. Shawn Smallwood’s four-year study in 2004 found that the Altamont Pass wind “farm” in California killed an average of 116 Golden Eagles per year. Since it was created 25 years ago, 2,900 “goldies” have died. Altamont is the largest, but not the only, sinkhole for the species, and industry-funded study stating that California’s GE population is steady is a sham.
Eagles aren’t the only ones that have suffered. Smallwood estimated that Altamont killed an average of 300 red-tailed hawks, 333 American kestrels, and 380 burrowing owls per year, as well as 2,526 rock doves and 2,557 western meadowlarks. The Spanish Ornithological Society (SEO/Birdlife) evaluated real carcass counts from 136 surveillance surveys in 2012, breaking the European omerta on wind farm death.
According to their findings, Spain’s 18,000 wind turbines kill 6-18 million birds and bats each year. Extrapolating from that and similar (under-publicized) German and Swedish research, 39,000 US wind turbines would kill 13-39 million birds and bats every year, not “just” 440,000 birds (USFWS, 2009) or “only” 573,000 birds and 888,000 bats (Smallwood, 2013). Self-serving and/or politically motivated government agencies, wind industry lobbyists, environmental groups, and ornithologists, on the other hand, are covering up the devastation with a slew of bogus studies paid for with more taxpayer money.
Even though modern monster turbines launch 80 percent of bird and bat carcasses much further, wildlife expert Jim Wiegand has demonstrated how regions explored under wind turbines are still constrained to 200-foot radiuses. Windfarm operators, following voluntary (!) USFWS standards, commission studies that explore far too narrow regions, examine just once every 30-90 days, assuring that scavengers destroy most carcasses, and ignore wounded birds located within search perimeters.
These research techniques are designed to ensure exceptionally low mortality rates, concealing the true death tolls and the USFWS is willing to maintain the lie. Furthermore, data on bird fatality is now considered the property of wind farm owners, implying that the public has no right to know. Regardless, reports have surfaced that eagles are being hacked to death across the United States. Raptors are drawn to wind turbines, so this isn’t surprising. They rest or scan for prey when perched atop them. They come because wind turbines are frequently erected in environments with plenty of food (live or carrion) and strong gliding winds.
Save the Eagles International (STEI) has released images of raptors sitting on nacelles or stationary blades, as well as ospreys establishing a nest on a decommissioned turbine. A turkey vulture perched on the hub of a spinning turbine and a griffon vulture being injured in films prove that moving blades do not deter them. Birds mistake areas traveled by spinning blades for wide space, oblivious to the fact that blade tips can travel at speeds of up to 180 mph. Many people are preoccupied with catching prey. Wind turbines are “ecological death traps” because of these reasons, regardless of where they are positioned.
The United States intends to generate 20% of its electricity from wind by 2030. That’s approximately six times as much as today, from three or four times as many turbines, which, due to their larger size, strike more flying species (even the mendacious study predicting 1.4 million bird kills recognizes this). By 2030, our wind turbines would be killing over 3 million birds and 5 million bats annually, according to the higher but still underestimated estimates of death released by Smallwood in 2013.
However, this is a factor of ten off from reality, because 90% of casualties occur beyond the search zone and are not counted. As a result, we’re talking about an unsustainable death toll of 30 million birds and 50 million bats every year and even more if we factor in other STEI-documented hide-the-mortality schemes. Eagles, hawks, falcons, owls, condors, whooping cranes, geese, bats, and other protected species are among those killed by cars and cats. Rodent numbers will skyrocket as a result of the raptor slaughter. Agriculture and forestry will be hurt hard by the slaughter of bats, who are already being destroyed by White Nose Syndrome.
According to the US Geological Survey, the value of pest-control services offered by bats to US agriculture ranges from $3.7 billion to $53 billion per year. These chiroptera also function as pollinators and fight forest pests. Insects that swarm around wind turbines attract them from as far as nine miles away, according to a Swedish research. As a result, the bloodbath. Wind industry lobbyists argue that they require “regulatory clarity.” Eagle “take” permits, on the other hand, will almost certainly result in extinction as well as ecological, agricultural, economic, social, and health crises that we cannot afford.
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