Wind tur­bines

The Guardian - G2 - - News -

Age: Ap­pear­ance: Early ex­am­ples Pro­pel­lers date on to sticks. the 7th cen­tury. Func­tion: En­ergy providers, cli­mate rescuers, apex predators. Apex predators? Have you con­fused wind tur­bines with wolves? Well, they are sim­i­lar to wolves in that they hunt in packs.

And what do wind tur­bines prey upon? Other predators – mostly rap­tors, such as buz­zards, hawks and kites. It’s not that I don’t be­lieve you, but would you hap­pen to have any video ev­i­dence of wind tur­bines pre­dat­ing? There’s not much to see; just blades turn­ing. Or not, as the case may be. Then how do the wind tur­bines kill the rap­tors? They don’t. The rap­tors avoid them al­to­gether. I feel that you might be chang­ing the def­i­ni­tion of “apex preda­tor” slightly in or­der to jus­tify your pre­vi­ous as­ser­tion. It’s all in a new study pub­lished in the re­spected sci­ence jour­nal Na­ture Ecol­ogy & Evo­lu­tion.

Is it, though? Yes. Ac­cord­ing to Dr Maria Thaker, rap­tors were four times rarer in the ar­eas of an In­dian mountain range where tur­bines had been erected. OK, but that’s not the same as her claim­ing that … “We have ba­si­cally added a new apex preda­tor – a wind tur­bine,” she said.

Wow. She re­ally did claim it. She did.

I guess I’m just dis­ap­pointed be­cause I had an im­age in my mind of tur­bines chop­ping

the birds in half. A 2013 study found that each tur­bine will cause only about five bird deaths a year – but mere avoid­ance has a big out­come for species down the food chain.

How so? The fan-tailed lizard pop­u­la­tion has ex­ploded un­der the In­dian tur­bines as a con­se­quence of rap­tors steer­ing clear.

Is that a good thing? Not nec­es­sar­ily. This cas­cad­ing ef­fect could have a dis­as­trous im­pact on the whole ecosys­tem. I sup­pose we need to pull down all the wind tur­bines now. Please don’t. Cli­mate change is a much big­ger threat to wildlife than wind­farms. Even Dr Thaker says so: “The bot­tom line for me is that I will pick wind en­ergy over fos­sil fu­els any day.”

So what’s the so­lu­tion? Wind­farms should be sited with care, avoid­ing eco­log­i­cally sen­si­tive ar­eas, breed­ing grounds for vul­ner­a­ble species and ma­jor mi­gra­tory routes.

Fine, let’s do that then. We al­ready do, to an ex­tent. Plan­ners in the UK have blocked wind farm pro­pos­als due to con­cerns about bird pop­u­la­tions.

Do say: “If we’re smart about where we put them, wind tur­bines can do a lot to help our wildlife.” Don’t say: “What if we glued bird seed to the blades? Would that lure them in?”

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