Don't wind turbines kill lots of birds?
Monitoring of existing wind farms suggests that with sensitive siting there is no adverse effect on bird populations. The Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society in New Zealand supports the sustainable development of renewable energy such as wind power because it helps mitigate climate change, which they believe "poses the most significant long-term threat to the environment...The available evidence suggests that appropriately positioned wind farms do not pose a significant hazard for birds."

As wind farm development in New Zealand is at a relatively early stage, we don't know much about potential birds death rates. But for example no bird deaths have been reported during the ten years of operation of the Brooklyn wind turbine and the Tararua wind farm has had approximately 10 reported bird deaths in five years. (1)

The 9 harbour-wall turbines at Blyth in the UK are in a busy bird area. Of the bird flights through the wind farm, only 1 in 10,000 have resulted in a collision. This translates to 1-2 collisions per year per turbine. To put the issue into perspective, in the UK every year more than 10 million birds are killed by cars and 55 million by domestic cats.(2) The Exxon Valdez oil spill alone is estimated to have killed up to 500,000 birds.

Even if bird mortality rates caused by wind turbines are lower than other man-made sources and studies have shown that birds are able to adapt to the new environment, a well thought-out design of the sites may reduce the risks of bird fatalities. For example, wind farm developers should avoid sites which lie across extremely frequented migratory routes, keep a good distance between the turbines and avoid structures which are attractive nesting places for birds.

Developers should contact bird specialists such as Forest & Bird and conduct a thorough analysis of the risk to birdlife as part of the Assessment of Environmental Effects (AEE) of the wind farm proposal. With rigorous impact assessment and thorough monitoring, wind power can be deployed without significant detriment to birds (and other wildlife).


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