EpiPHany Corner | The Audubon Society Supports Wind Energy

This month’s EpiPHany Corner, while not directly related to Passive House, does provide some relevant insights associated with the production of renewable energy — specifically, the misinformation regarding the significance of bird deaths from wind turbines. The fact that the misinformation is largely funded by the fossil fuel industry is not an epiphany.

Indeed, a significant number of birds are lost to collisions with turbine blades, but research into causes of bird deaths indicates that wind farms should be among the least of our concerns. See the chart below.
(Link to the chart – Bird Deaths) (Link to the source of the inserted quote from the Audubon Society – AudubonQuote)

The fact that wind turbines are responsible for only a tiny fraction of bird deaths when compared to other causes, as shown in the chart, is not the reason that the Audubon Society supports wind energy. Their support of wind energy is because shifting to renewable sources dramatically reduces bird deaths from the production of energy by fossil fueled power stations and nuclear power plants. A study on avian and wildlife costs of fossil fuels and nuclear power compared the avian fatalities per gigawatt-hour (GWh) of electricity produced by different sources. (Link to the source of the quote below – SaveBirds) 

“It estimates that wind farms are responsible for roughly 0.27 avian fatalities per gigawatt-hour (GWh) of electricity while nuclear power plants involve 0.6 fatalities per GWh and fossil-fueled power stations are responsible for about 9.4 fatalities per GWh.”

Simple math tells us that every bird death associated with electricity produced by wind farms avoids the deaths of 35 birds that would have been killed if that same amount of electricity had been produced by fossil-fueled power stations (2 birds, if produced by a nuclear power plant).

(Note: The referenced studies are from a few years ago. In the interim we have learned more about how to site and operate wind farms in to avoid, minimize, and mitigate impacts on birds and other wildlife.)