[Tweeters] Seabirds & Windpower

Richard Carlson rccarl at pacbell.net
Sun Aug 17 07:10:41 PDT 2008

This wind issue is haunting me. I just came back from Minnesota and saw convoys of trucks carting hundreds of giant wind turbines into the prairies. We are about to start one of the largest environemntal transformations in our history, with no data to lead us. Our current policy could best be described as a blind stampede. This is not a random thought, this is my considered professional opinion. I'm the co-author of "Solar Energy in America's Future" (ERDA 1977) the first and still most comprehensive review of the potential for large scale renewable energy use in the US. The US Dept of Energy (then called Energy Research & Development Administration ) funded this study at Stanford Research Institute. I was the lead economist and energy modeler on the project.

One of the purposes of the project was to target more research on renewables and their potential impacts. The technology research has been significant, today's solar technologies are much better than the ones we studied. The economic conclusion then was the same as today: wind is by far the most economic solar technology. ( Energy conservation, by the way, beats all the solar technolgies, which was one of our more important and more controversial conclusions.) As a result of it's relatively favorable economics any mandate for renewables means vastly more windpower.

Unfortunately, the environmental impact work on windpower, which we called for 30 years ago, stinks. Today, we know four things:

1. The early windmachines sited at Altamont Pass and other California locations were ( and are) highly efficient raptor killers.

2. Large structures of all kinds are major killers of birds during migration.

3. We know next to nothing about the avian impactsof the much larger wind turbines now being installed.

4. Avian impact assessments of wind turbines is devilishly difficult.

So here we are about to site millions of wind machines across the prairies, along the ridges and up and down the coasts, at hundreds of key migration sites and we still know next to nothing about the potential impacts on the birds. The Boone Pickens plan to use wind instead of natural gas electricity would require at least 2 million large wind turbines and an additional 2 million miles of new transmission lines. That is a huge number of structures. Right now the birds that can avoid a few major cities and radio towers have nothing to impede their migration. Now we are talking about 300 ft high walls of wind towers hundreds of miles long. Birds might be able to avoid these machines during the day, but what about the night, what about fog?

The world's only large scale installation of wind machines is in Denmark, and they have a huge economic and political bias to hide any problems. Wind energy equipment is now one of their biggest industries. The Danish machines are mostly in shallow ocean sites, where you'll never find 99% of any bird kills. The only study of large land based wind turbines was in Toronto, but it covered only one machine, not hundreds, and the site was urban not rural. Furthermore, some of the data is weird, Toronto alley cats were so incompetent, they couldn't find his test dead birds.

So the convoys carrying the giant wind machines are rolling. A decade from now we'll know whether or not this was a good idea. I'm sure many of you are happy. I'm just plain scared.

Richard Carlson
Full-time Birder, Biker and Rotarian
Part-time Economist
Tucson, AZ, Lake Tahoe, CA, & Kirkland, WA
rccarl at pacbell.net
Tucson 520-760-4935
Tahoe 530-581-0624
Kirkland 425-828-3819
Cell 650-280-2965

----- Original Message ----
From: "MurrayH at aol.com" <MurrayH at aol.com>
To: Tweeters at u.washington.edu
Sent: Saturday, August 16, 2008 7:20:05 PM
Subject: [Tweeters] Seabirds

Friends: Over the years, I have seen many postings regarding our
seabirds from the Pacific coast, the Juan de Fuca Straits, and along the
Columbia River. From time to time, I think I may have read some
notes from people in the Gulf of Mexico (oil rigs) and the northern seas
(Bering Sea-not sure). Does anyone know about "wind farms" re
Recently, someone asked me
if I knew anything about the breeding success of our seabirds with regard to
climate change and over-fishing-- and, of course, I don't ! and
thus my letter to any and all Tweeters. Do we have any access
to reports of breeding success regarding our seabirds? Who monitors
this kind of information? Do we? Regards,

(Mrs.) Murray Hansen
MurrayH at aol.com

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