Coal found guilty in case of energy generation vs birds | RenewEconomy

Coal found guilty in case of energy generation vs birds

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U.S. News has investigated just how many birds are killed by different energy sources each year, and the figures do not look good for coal utilities.

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U.S. News has investigated just how many birds are killed by different energy sources each year, and the figures do not look good for coal utilities.

Over the years that renewable energy has developed into a mainstay of the Western energy grid there have been a number of attempts to derail their development, spread, and innovation. Many times, these attempts at derailment are environmentally based: What was the cost of manufacturing to the environment? What impact are these wind turbines having on weather patterns? Are marine technologies harmful to wildlife?

Possibly the most prevalent opposition raised against renewable technologies such as wind and solar, however, is the impact these projects have on bird-life.

For years, opponents of wind and solar projects have brought before the world cases of massive avian death — wind turbines smacking birds mid-flight, solar panels incinerating birds as they wander into their field of view. The cases have been endless, and often been immediately proven to be overstated at best.

Last week the Associated Press reported that a concentrated solar power plant in the Mojave Desert was under scrutiny after Federal wildlife investigators visited the BrightSource Energy plant and watched as birds — or “streamers” as the employees of the project call the smoking birds as they plummet to the ground — fell to their death one every two minutes.

And while Garry George, renewable-energy director for the California chapter of the Audubon Society is correct that “there needs to be some caution”, understanding just how impactful one energy source is over another in terms of avian-mortality is worth noting.

U.S. News and World Report took it upon themselves to actually look at the numbers of birds killed each year by electricity sources in the United States. And while all numbers reported are going to be open to interpretation and discussion, the final conclusion is going to be difficult to ignore, as you can see from the table below.

Image Credit: U.S. News & World News


U.S. News outlines the specifics of each estimate, and concludes with the same statistic that has been effectively derailing this particular line of argument for decades. No matter how many birds are killed by energy generation technologies each year, they pale into insignificance when compared to the number of birds killed by cats each year — a figure resting somewhere between 1.4 and 3.7 billion.




 Source: CleanTechnica. Reproduced with permission.




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  1. KD 5 years ago

    Given there is much much more coal plant than solar/wind in the US, a more appropriate metric would be bird fatalities (BF) per unit of electricity. The underlying source for much of the data is a journal article that estimated that coal generation (including mining and the effects of climate change) accounted for 5.2 BF/GWh, versus 0.3/0.4 for wind/nuclear. According to the ever-reliable wikipedia, expected output from Ivnapah is 1,000GWh/year. So the metric for CSP is 1-28BF/GWh. If the correct figure is at the higher end, then CSP would be considerably worse for birds than coal. So it depends what point you want to make really.
    People will always find something to complain about with any energy infrastructure. But they all want a reliable supply of the stuff…

  2. Alan Baird 5 years ago

    No doubt the anti-wind power loopies will be onto this, trying to create another factoid while ignoring the reality. No doubt the Oz will dutifully manufacture faux outrage/story about the birds just as in the case of the orange-bellied parrot. Yeah, the LCP were real concerned back then and nothing has changed. If coal does something negative, it must be wholesomely negative. Turbines must be suspect. Mandatory. Always.

  3. dorsett 5 years ago

    I wonder how many eagles or other large raptors are killed by cats every year? 🙂

    The bird-per megawatt-hour studies have been done:

    I’m sure that data will continue to be updated.

    Bird-cooking concentrated solar (along with other generation technologies) will probably fall to the broadaxe of rapidly declining PV costs in only a handful of years. Given how long it takes to design & build concentrating solar, some folks have already written it off.

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