What Kills More Birds, Windmills or Coal Power Plants?


Do windmills kill birds?

You hear some pretty stupid arguments against clean energy these days. From people who don’t know anything about farming bleating on about ethanol raising food prices to people who don’t understand what causes wind claiming that sailboats cause global warming by “slowing wind down”. These people huffed too much paint in their youth and are beyond saving, so I won’t pretend to try to educate them. The kids, though? The kids are innocent, and hearing that windmills kill birds is not something bound to give tomorrow’s decision-making adults a favorable impression re: wind.

SO, is it true that windmills kill birds? Yes. It’s thanksgiving, and you probably cooked a bird today, though, so what’s the real issue here? Shouldn’t the question, the correct question, be: What kills more birds, windmills, or coal power plants?

That is, in fact the correct question- and Zach Shahan at our sister site, CleanTechnica, has a terrific answer. You can check it out in the original article from CT, re-printed below. Enjoy- and have a Happy Thanksgiving!


Wind Farm Bird Deaths vs Fossil Fuel & Nuclear Power Bird Deaths (via Clean Technica)

This article was jointly written by one of CleanTechnica’s readers and Zachary Shahan. It’s a shame when a beautiful (or even an ugly) animal dies. It’s a shame that wind turbines do indeed kill birds. However, every source of electricity we have…

About the Author

I've been in the auto industry 1997, and write for a number of blogs in the IM network. You can also find me on Twitter, at my Volvo fansite, or chasing my kids around Oak Park, IL.
  • dpz

    We know the blades on a windmill kills the birds. How do coal plants kill birds? And, please provide sources of your numbers. I could state that coal plants kill .0001 bird per…..but I obviously cannot back up my claims.

    • A Real Libertarian

      “How do coal plants kill birds?”

      Google “coal pollution” please.

      • Don’t bother. This is one of those guys who thinks the Sun isn’t a star and it revolves around the Earth.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Coal mining, open pit and mountain top mining, destroys habitat.

      Pollution kills birds.

      “Based on the comparative amounts of SO2, NOx, CO2, and mercury emissions generated from coal, oil, natural gas, and hydro and the associated effects of acidic deposition, climate change, and mercury bioaccumulation, coal as an electricity generation source is by far the largest contributor to risks to wildlife found in the NY/NE region.”

      Journal of Integrative Environmental Studies:

      Birds fly into cooling towers, especially on foggy nights. A study at a single Florida coal-fired power plant with four smokestacks recorded an estimated 3,000 deaths in a single evening during a fall migration. Birds seem to be attracted to the light.

      And then there’s the climate change problem. If we continue to increase the amount of CO2 in our atmosphere we are going to kill trillions of birds and drive thousands of species to extinction.

      • Davy.77

        Wind turbine kills birds. U.S. court has found wind turbine operators guilty of charge of killing the birds bob.

        If we continue installing wind turbines it’s estimated that the world bird’s population will be wiped out. That why we need to build more coal power plants which protect the birds, to date not one bird has been killed by coal fire or nuclear power station, nor any prosecution held against these generators.

        In fact, the report say wind turbines cause dramatic health effects on communities.
        There is no evidence which supports your claim, the wind meat cleavers of the sky must come down to protect the bird species and the health of the human population.

        • A Real Libertarian

          Crikey Mark, you again?

        • You are a Grade-A idiot. I hope you don’t spawn.

        • A wind turbine blade moves about as relatively quickly as a turtle on a freeway. Not that it’s ever really appropriate to use my name as a card in an argument, but really? Come on. If anything, it gives smarter birds of prey a great opportunity to catch easy prey. “You REALLY ran into that thing? Were you aiming for it? Oh well, lunch.”

          You’ve got zero argument, and you’re a parody of yourself by saying “the wind meat cleavers of the sky”. Better watch out, those blades spinning at a single RPM are pretty dangerous!

          • Bob_Wallace

            Tip speed is pretty fast. Lot of distance to cover in only a minute when you’re using long blades.

          • Yes, they’re massive blades, and they move through the air at a pretty high speed. So do birds. And considering birds have a higher time-perception rate than humans, they move even slower from a bird’s perspective. I figure it’s just like warning people not to text and drive… if you fly distracted, you’re gonna run into windows and trees and… yep, probably wind turbines too.

          • Bob_Wallace

            To make the best decisions we need to stick as closely to facts a possible. Wind turbines do kill some birds. Not many in comparison to coal (35x) and nuclear (2.2x) based per GWh, but some.

            A couple of our wind farms have been poorly designed/sited. Altamont Pass Wind Farm was a nasty piece of work. It was built with short, grid styled towers and it killed a lot of birds, especially raptors. The raptors would perch on the crossbeams of the towers and watch for something tasty on the ground and then take toward lunch and get clunked by the fast spinning blades. Most of those first generation towers have been replaced and all will be within the next couple of years. Kill numbers at Altamont are way down and will continue to fall.

            There’s also another wind farm that was apparently badly sited and has killed a dozen or so Golden Eagles. That farm is owned by Duke Energy and they are going to have to figure out a solution because they are getting fined for each eagle kill. Worst case, they’ll have to relocate those towers/turbines.

            We need to be honest. Wind turbines do kill birds. But with best practices we can get the number very low. Some wind farms kill less than 1 bird per year per turbine. And overall bird kills per GWh produced are down. In 2009 there were 12.5 bird kills per MW installed wind capacity. In 2012 there were 9.5 bird kills per MW installed wind capacity. That’s a 24% decrease. A very major improvement in bird safety. And we aren’t done yet.

          • Davy.77

            The wind meat cleavers of the sky.

            What I got is facts, in fact it’s backed up by the U.S. Court, what you have is nothing to go on.

            Case Closed on your argument and dismissed. The wind meat cleavers of the sky stand.



          • What you got is a serious delusion of adequacy.

          • A Real Libertarian

            It’s a sock puppet Jo.

          • I’ve been accused of being a sock-puppet. :/

          • A Real Libertarian

            Were you accused because a bunch of guest accounts all came to promote “nonpolluting” coal in the same grammar deficient English?

            Because those are obviously the work of an incompetent puppeteer.

          • No, it was actually a post about Elio motors- whose supporters seem to be the “clutch the guns! clutch the Bible!” types.

          • Real BoB

            You again Bob? What a Puppet.

    • See Bob’s response.

  • Commenters made a mockery of the Clean Technica article which was based on a study that has been debunked.

    • Bob_Wallace

      No, Russ. You misrepresent.

      (Misrepresent is a polite word for lie.)

      • Russ is a chronic reality-denier, Bob. His lies (I’m not polite) here don’t surprise me in the least.

  • If any bird runs into a blade of a wind turbine, they deserve the Darwin award. Seriously. It’s not like birds don’t have eyes – you know, the defining feature of some particular birds. If anything, some birds of prey probably camp out on the backs of those wind turbines looking for birds stupid enough to actually aim for the blades. “Hey, easy lunch.”

    Seriously though, it’s just a stupid excuse cooked up by some anti-“green” think-tank in order to fill the room with smoke. “Oh shit… wind power is cheaper than coal… QUICK! MAKE IT LOOK BAD!”

    • The sad thing is all the bird-brains that buy into it because they’re either too stupid or too unimaginative to believe that something they can’t see (the air, chemicals, a massive strip mine that, somehow, manages to not be located between their home and the Wal Mart, etc.) can have an actual impact.

      • A Real Libertarian

        “I can’t see, therefore it doesn’t exist”.

        That’s how babies were thought to work until scientists learned that babies aren’t that stupid.

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