Further devastating evidence of the toll that onshore wind turbines take on local eagle populations has emerged in Tasmania. The local Wedge-tailed eagle is thought to be down to just 1,000 individuals, but over the last 12 years at least 270 birds have been killed or injured in the vicinity of wind farms. According to a recent paper in Australian Field Ornithology, a further 49 vulnerable White-bellied sea eagles have also been killed in this period.
The scale of depredation is shocking but it could be much worse than reported. According to author Gregory Pullen, information about eagle deaths is not readily available, “nor readily made available”. His calculations arise from a number of primary sources including annual reports. He suggests that unrecorded casualties are higher since most are recorded anecdotally and are not the result of systematic survey. The Tasmanian sub-species of the Wedge-tailed eagle is listed as endangered under both federal and state threatened species legislation.
Large birds of prey such as eagles are at particular risk from giant wind turbine blades revolving at speed since they rely on air currents for sustained flight. The Daily Sceptic has covered this developing story, noting that few activists, bird conservation groups and writers seem able to rouse themselves to complain when the natural flight path of raptors stands in the way of green progress. The Australian climate journalist Jo Nova has stood out from the unquestioning crowd, noting that in Tasmania the greens are destroying nature – again. “It’s not about the environment is it,” she said. She went on to add that there are plans to build up to 10 wind turbine parks across Tasmania – “and if one tower misses, the next will get them”.
It’s not really about the environment over in California either, where America’s national bird, the bald eagle, and many other raptors face mass slaughter in the local wind farm avian graveyards. This follows the state Democrat-controlled legislature’s recent decision to relax controls on wildlife protections to allow permits to kill previously fully protected species for renewable energy and infrastructure projects. However, evidence continues to emerge that the slaughter has been going on for years. Last year, NextEra, one of America’s largest utility companies, was fined $8 million after 150 eagles were killed at its wind farms across eight states. According to the Golden Gate Audubon Society, a wind farm complex in Altamont has been killing 75-100 golden eagles every year since the 1980s.
The animal slaughter does not stop at large birds of course. A number of scientific studies have point to the destruction of millions of bats and smaller birds every year by turbine blades capable of travelling at the tip at speeds approaching 150mph.
Alas, it is not as if the deaths of these wildlife green martyrs are helping to produce much worthwhile economic activity. In the U.K., the small number of jobs being produced by green technologies is starting to be noticed. Gary Smith, the leader of Britain’s largest trade union, recently said that communities along the North Sea can see wind farms, “but they can’t point to the jobs”. Possibly exaggerating to make his point, he added that much of the green work seems to be either London-based lobbying or clearing away the animal casualties of wind farm blades. “It’s usually a man in a rowing boat, sweeping up the dead birds,” he observed.
Green activists are increasingly being caught between a rock and a hard place on these impact issues. It is becoming obvious that many of the green technology solutions proposed to replace fossil fuels come with heavy environmental costs. Whether it be open cobalt mining with child labour, or digging up vast quantities of the Earth’s crust to help construct second-rate solutions such as windmills, the terrible impact is all too obvious. At the moment the typical stance seems to be that voiced by Audubon California Policy Director Mark Lynas, who said we need renewable energy resources, and he did not want to see the eagle deaths “being used to push against clean energy”.
Another area where ecology fights are breaking out is on the east coast of America, where whales are beaching on the shores of New Jersey and New York in alarming numbers. In the first half of this year over 40 whales have died in this way. Large areas of the local ocean are being turned into industrial wind parks, with particular concern arising over 24-hour sonar soundings. The veteran environment campaigner Michael Shellenberger has said the massive offshore works are wreaking environmental damage in previously pristine waters. “It’s the biggest environmental scandal in the world,” he charges.
The waters off the U.S. east coast are important feeding and breeding grounds for large mammals such as whales and dolphins, including the rare North Atlantic right whale. Shellenberger has recently produced a documentary called Thrown to the Wind which presents evidence of whales hit by ships, and high decibel sonar that is said to separate mothers from their calves, sending them into harm’s way. The film shows environmentalists checking the sonar which is said to measure 150 dBs at sea – equivalent to about 90 dBs on land. The noise is a relentless drum beat that is said to pound across the ocean throughout the day and night. On land, the sonar noise would be equivalent to a hairdryer. For humans, prolonged noise much above 70 dBs may start to damage hearing.
The film makes the point that serious pile-driving to secure the giant turbines to the sea floor has yet to start in earnest. Once built there is a danger that the huge back wash created by the giant blades will disturb and kill off plankton, destroying the food supply for the whales.
It must be noted that many interested parties dispute the claims currently being made about wildlife in the new oceanic industrial parks springing up with generous subsidies from the Biden Administration. Both sides can marshal their arguments and evidence. But at the moment, the deck is rigged in favour of the green lobby. Fracking for oil and gas was banned in the U.K. with Friends of the Earth presenting evidence of local earthquakes similar in force to someone falling off a chair. It is more than likely that multiple eagle deaths would be enough to stop the operation of any oil and gas installation. Seemingly, it will take more than a mere rowing boat full of protected but very dead birds to stop the new Green Barons.
Chris Morrison is the Daily Sceptic’s Environment Editor.