Costs to birds

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Do windmills kill "huge numbers" of birds? Wind farms recently got adverse publicity from Norway, where the wind turbines on Smola, a set of islands off the north-west coast, killed 9 white-tailed eagles in 10 months. I share the concern of BirdLife International for the welfare of rare birds. But I think, as always, it's important to do the numbers. It's been estimated that 30 000 birds per year are killed by wind turbines in Denmark, where windmills generate 9% of the electricity. Horror! Ban windmills! We also learn, moreover, that traffic kills one million birds per year in Denmark. Thirty-times-greater horror! Thirty-times-greater incentive to ban cars! And in Britain, 55 million birds per year are killed by cats (figure 10.6).

Going on emotions alone, I would like to live in a country with virtually no cars, virtually no windmills, and with plenty of cats and birds (with the cats that prey on birds perhaps being preyed upon by Norwegian white-tailed eagles, to even things up). But what I really hope is that decisions about cars and windmills are made by careful rational thought, not by emotions alone. Maybe we do need the windmills!

Figure 10.4. The Magnus platform in the northern UK sector of the North Sea contains 71000 tons of steel. In the year 2000 this platform delivered 3.8 million tons of oil and gas - a power of 5 GW. The platform cost £1.1 billion.

Photos by Terry Cavner.

Figure 10.4. The Magnus platform in the northern UK sector of the North Sea contains 71000 tons of steel. In the year 2000 this platform delivered 3.8 million tons of oil and gas - a power of 5 GW. The platform cost £1.1 billion.

Photos by Terry Cavner.

Figure 10.5. Pipes for Langeled. From Bredero-Shaw [brederoshaw.com].

Figure 10.5. Pipes for Langeled. From Bredero-Shaw [brederoshaw.com].

Figure 10.6. Birds lost in action. Annual bird deaths in Denmark caused by wind turbines and cars, and annual bird deaths in Britain caused by cats. Numbers from Lomborg (2001). Collisions with windows kill a similar number to cats.

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Renewable energy is energy that is generated from sunlight, rain, tides, geothermal heat and wind. These sources are naturally and constantly replenished, which is why they are deemed as renewable.

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