The least of energy evils

 

Clean Energy’s Dirty Secret,” though well-intentioned, grossly misinforms readers about wind energy’s impacts and ignores its many environmental benefits (HCN, 10/26/15).

Contrary to the impression left by the story, wind farms are not a major source of bird mortality. North American wind turbine sites kill an estimated 134,000-230,000 small birds each year ­— only a fraction of the 5 billion small bird deaths caused by human activities. Other causes of mortality include buildings (550 million), power lines (130 million) and cars (80 million).

While eagles do occasionally collide with turbines, modern wind facilities represent only 2 percent of all documented human-caused golden eagle fatalities.

Wind energy also saves birds. By avoiding 126 million metric tons of carbon dioxide a year in the U.S., it acts as one of the key solutions for mitigating climate change, recognized as the biggest threat to birds and wildlife generally. It also helps conserve wildlife and preserve natural habitats in other ways. In 2013, wind power helped save 36.5 billion gallons of water, an amount that could rise to 260 billion gallons by 2050.

Wind also reduced harmful air pollutants, such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, mercury and fine particulates — thus benefiting both human and animal health. By 2050, these air-quality improvements alone could prevent as many as 22,000 people from dying prematurely.

As wind helps displace coal, oil and gas, not as many mountaintops in Appalachia will be blown off to access the coal underneath them, fewer rivers will be buried under mine waste or rendered lifeless from acid mine drainage, and less wild land will be lost to oil and gas development.

David Jenkins
President, Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship
Oakton, Virginia