NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Avian Cuisinarts

February 16, 2004

Wind farms, thought to be environmentally beneficial, kill about 1,026 total birds each year in California's Altamont Pass, with half of the birds classified as raptors, or birds of prey, says study.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy:

  • In 2000, researchers discovered the carcasses of 226 raptors and 213 birds of prey in the area of the Pass where one-quarter of the wind turbines are located.
  • After factoring out deaths from predators and natural causes, it was estimated that about 24 golden eagles are killed per year -- which is actually a decline from previous estimates.
  • Red-tailed hawks are killed at an estimated 244 per year while burrowing owls, whose numbers are already dwindling, are killed at a rate of about 93 per year.
  • Bird deaths would actually increase slightly as a result of the newer models "sweeping" a much larger area with longer blades.
  • Existing wind turbines with tubular towers actually killed birds at a greater rate than those with lattice structures.

Moreover, due to wind variability, the wind farms only generate about one-third of their rated capacity in the Altamont Pass.

Source: Matt Carter, "Study: Wind Farms More Lethal to Birds Than First Thought," Oakland Tribune, January 30, 2004; E. Schmidt, A.J. Piaggio, C.E. Bock, and D.M. Armstrong, "National Wind Technology Center Site Environmental Assessment: Bird and Bat Use and Fatalities -- Final Report, Period of Performance: April 23, 2001 - December 31, 2002," January 2003, NREL/SR-500-32981, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy.

For text,1413,82%257E1865%257E1924751,00.html

For Department of Energy study


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