Wind Turbines and Dead Whales. Nuclear Energy and Solar Panels.
After a third explosion at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in Japan, the pro nuclear power lobby must be watching their case ebb away in silence. The situation is changing day by day but already confidence in the nuclear industry has been rocked to the core.
However, before those who oppose any form of nuclear power (particularly in countries that have a low earthquake risk) can look forward to a rapid increase in the construction of alternative forms of techonology there is much work to be done.
A story in The Daily Telegraph today describes how scientists at the University of St Andrews have found evidence suggesting that one of the main reasons why (beaked) whales become stranded and die on British beaches is because they are disoriented by the offshore wind farms.
Last August it was claimed by the Seal Mammal Research Unit at St Andrews that offshore wind farms might be responsible for a spate of mysterious seal deaths. This was denied by both the companies that construct the turbines and the wind farm operators.
Meanwhile, there have been all kinds of stories appearing the press suggesting that large wind turbines can have a fatal impact on sea birds, and in the case of land based turbines, birds and bats.
Now there’s another piece in The Daily Telegraph about the flickering of light caused by the rotating blades.
A report commissioned by the Department for Energy and Climate Change recommended that turbines should be built no closer than 10 rotor diameters from the nearest home.
Perhaps now more than ever we should lessen the reliance for the supply of energy to homes and small businesses on centralised sources and instead encourage the gradual transition to homes and industrial units that all have some degree of self-contained solar and wind generated energy.
In short, stick some solar panels on your roof and put up your own wind generator or erect a communal turbine for a collection of houses.
Nationally we could also be following the example of the pioneers at the Eden Project who, together with EGS Energy, are to build one of the first geo thermal power plants in the UK, generating both heat and electricity.
Do Wind Turbines Kill Birds?
One of the biggest criticisms of wind turbines is that they kill birds. It’s true that turbines can pose a threat to birds, particularly large birds of prey that are attracted to the spinning blades. However, it’s important to put the numbers into perspective.
According to a study by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, turbines account for less than 0.01% of all bird deaths each year. Compare that to the estimated 1 billion birds killed by cats, or the 6 million killed by collisions with buildings, and it’s clear that wind turbines are not the biggest problem facing our feathered friends.
On the other hand, it’s not just about the numbers, but type of birds killed. If cats kill millions of common garden birds but wind turbines kill rare birds of prey, then one could argue that wind farms are the greater threat.
Some bird species are actually benefiting from the spread of wind energy, as turbines are often built in areas that have been traditionally used for farming or ranching. As a result, these areas are now being left undisturbed, providing a valuable habitat for wildlife.