Saturday, 9 June 2012

How to stop wind turbines from chopping bird up into little pieces

A valid argument raised about wind turbines is that they kill birds.

This is true, and with this in mind, I've been trying to think of some work arounds.

Here's my first idea.

This metal cage surrounding the rotating blades of the fan prevents errant budgies from being killed, while still allowing a flow of cooling air to be emitted from the front of the fan.

I actually suggested this idea on a forum, and was loudly decried as a crank. The cage would prevent the wind from reaching the blades of the turbine, they said, and the added weight of such a structure would impede the turbine's ability to face the wind.

So it's odd then, that despite the dense metal mesh enclosing the blades of this rapidly turning fan, it somehow fulfills it's function. Still, the critics do have a point. Such a cage would presumably have some effect on the output of the turbine, and experiments would have to take place to determine the optimal ration between keeping the birds safe, while maximising output.

So here's a development of the idea, complete with both an extremely dangerous turbine, and some birds.

As you can see, this one doesn't employ a cage, it uses a net. This net prevents the birds from being chopped to bits by the rapidly spinning propellor, while the propellor itself manages to output sufficient thrust to keep the aircraft aloft.

What not to like?

driving lessons in Wallasey?


Jim Bliss said...

Paul, you should be aware that the whole "bird deaths caused by wind energy" issue is a massive red herring.

There was an excellent article on this issue by Mike Sagrillo (called "Putting Wind Power's effect on birds into perspective") which collated a huge amount of research on this subject, but it has unfortunately disappeared from the web - I hate it when websites with good articles disappear!

Anyway, he referenced a variety of studies which showed that the number of birds killed by wind-farms is remarkably small when compared with bird deaths caused by other human factors (including, for example, the fossil fuel industry). Most people who raise the issue as an objection to wind-farms tend to cite the Altamont wind-farm in San Francisco which was disastrously located close to a major breeding ground for several species of raptors. Yet even if we look at that particular worst-case scenario, Sagrillo pointed out that the Altamont farm "would need to operate for up to 1,000 years to kill as many birds as one oil tanker spillage".

And as it turns out, the Altamont farm is something of an exception...

"Concerning the San Gorgonio Pass wind facility near Palm Springs. A 1986 study found that 69 million birds flew though the San Gorgonio Pass during the Spring and Fall migrations. During both migrating seasons, only 38 dead birds were found during that typical year, representing only 0.00006% of the migrating population."

Now, if you are a hardliner who insists we should not have built that wind farm because of 38 bird deaths, you need to be consistent and also object to glass windows, cars, pesticides, domestic cats and cell phone masts. All of which kill vastly more birds than wind turbines.

Indeed, in the US it is estimated that of the bird deaths caused by human factors (excluding, of course, the birds we farm and eat - a whole other issue) less than 3 in every 100,000 are the result of wind turbines.

Check out the PDF at this address:

This is a summary of US government stats on bird deaths due to human factors. Scroll to Table 2 (just before the bibliography) and you'll be shocked by some of the numbers.

Collisions with glass windows (buildings) account for over half a billion bird deaths per year in the US. Power lines? 130 million. Domestic cats? 100 million. Cars? 80 million. Waaaay down the list comes wind turbines at 28,500.

I'm not say we shouldn't work to reduce that 28 thousand. Of course we should. And if wind turbines can be made safer for birds and bats, then we should do so. But I have a problem with people sanctimoniously using the welfare of birds as a reason to object to wind turbines when they remain suspiciously silent on the subject of... y'know... buildings, cars and powerlines - all of which absolutely dwarf the damage being done by wind farms. Almost as if they don't really give a damn about birds at all.

Paul said...

I'd heard all of that somewhere Jim, but I couldn't remember where.

Then yesterday I was listening to an audiobook version of Alan Weismann's book, The World Without Us, and there it was...

The birds would continue to smack into windows and be predated upon by cats, but would no longer be zapped by power lines or cars.