You often hear about birds colliding with wind turbines, but a new commercial from the American Bird Conservancy actually shows the impact. The footage, filmed by an American tourist in Crete, captures a griffon vulture striking a blade and falling to the ground. It’s part of a campaign for “bird-smart” wind power that “implements siting considerations, operational and construction mitigation, bird monitoring, and compensation to redress any unavoidable bird mortality and habitat loss.”
I’m all for measures that protect birds—including keeping cats inside or constructing “catios” so felines can get some fresh air but not get at birds, and taking measures to decrease the millions of avian deaths each migration season that result from birds crashing into buildings.
And wind—along with solar power, energy reduction, geothermal, and other measures—certainly pose less risk to our ecosystems and human health than a nuclear meltdown or carbon emissions spewed from burning fossil fuels (not to mention oil spills).
Yet any energy source has drawbacks and downsides. Wind turbine kill bats and birds, as the video shows, and as we’ve seen at places like Altamont Pass—where turbines are believed to kill more birds of prey than any other wind farm in the world. And with wind comes transmission lines, and the question of where to put them.
Wind should be done right. Regarding Altamont Pass, for instance, five Bay Area Audubon Society chapters and other groups reached an agreement with energy operators in December to expedite the replacement of old turbines with new, larger ones that are less likely to harm birds. And efforts are underway to site renewable energy projects and transmission lines outside unspoiled landscapes and wildlife habitat (see “Balance of Power,” by Michelle Nijuis, for a look at how Audubon, other groups, and government agencies, are working to site wind farms and transmission lines so that they don’t threaten the greater sage-grouse or other creatures that depend on the sagebrush habitat).
Click here for the National Audubon Society's position on wind power.
There’s no easy answer, but it seems to me that our best bet is making science-based decisions about where and how we generate power. What’s your take?