“Wind turbines create pollution and kill birds”

Just before Christmas, the US president had a few words to say about ‘windmills’:

Donald Trump: Windmills cause cancer | Sky News

 

The Science Alert website looks at some of the claims:

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Carbon Footprint

“They are made in China and Germany mostly, very few made here, almost none,” he said, “but they are manufactured, tremendous — if you are into this — tremendous fumes and gases are spewing into the atmosphere.”

But as pointed out by The Hill, researchers from the American Wind Energy Association found that a “typical wind project repays its carbon footprint in six months or less.” Meanwhile, the benefits of the devices can last for a typical lifespan of 20 to 25 years – a good investment no matter how you look at it.

They kill birds

“You want to see a bird graveyard?” Trump asked the audience. “You just go. Take a look. A bird graveyard. Go under a windmill someday. You’ll see more birds than you’ve ever seen ever in your life… A windmill will kill many bald eagles. It’s true.”

Though it’s hard to say for sure how many bald eagles fall victim to wind turbines, the devices do kill approximately 234,012 birds in the US every year, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service. But for comparison, collisions with glass buildings — like the ones Trump has made a career stamping his name on — kill 599,000,000 birds every year. That’s 2,559 times more birds than turbines.

The President Made Some Big Claims About Windmills. Here Are The Facts | sciencealert.com

Trump’s Don Quixote Moment | the globalist

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Looking at these and other objections to wind turbines:

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Carbon Footprint

Carbon will be needed in the production of anything of course, and yet:

“Wind beats coal by any environmental measure, but that doesn’t mean that its impacts are negligible,” said David Keith, the Gordon McKay Professor of Applied Physics at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and senior author of the papers. “We must quickly transition away from fossil fuels to stop carbon emissions. In doing so, we must make choices between various low-carbon technologies, all of which have some social and environmental impacts.”

Perhaps solar would be better:

“For solar energy, the average power density (measured in watts per meter squared) is 10 times higher than wind power, but also much lower than estimates by leading energy experts. This research suggests that not only will wind farms require more land to hit the proposed renewable energy targets but also, at such a large scale, would become an active player in the climate system.”

Wind Farms Cause More Environmental Impact Than Previously Thought | scitechdaily.com

The Union of Concerned Scientists agrees:

“Harnessing power from the wind is one of the cleanest and most sustainable ways to generate electricity as it produces no toxic pollution or global warming emissions. Wind is also abundant, inexhaustible, and affordable, which makes it a viable and large-scale alternative to fossil fuels.  Despite its vast potential, there are a variety of environmental impacts associated with wind power generation that should be recognized and mitigated.”

Environmental Impacts of Wind Power | ucsusa.org

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They kill birds

The US president seems to be agreeing with his Russian counterpart:

Putin: Is he right about wind turbines and bird deaths? | BBC News

Perhaps we need to get rid of Tiddles, though:

Wind turbines kill fewer birds than do cats and cell towers in the US | USA Today

The RSPB is the UK’s largest nature conservation body – and has at its heart the welfare of birds:

“The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and windfarm opponents have found themselves at odds over the risk turbines pose to bird species, particularly birds of prey. Carbon Brief examines what the peer-reviewed research says about turbines’ impacts on birds. An article in last weekend’s Mail on Sunday claims wind farms are “destroying rare birds”, arguing turbines kill birds of prey including hen harriers and golden eagles. And in another piece, the  Telegraph says a US-based conservation group fears windfarms will “massacre” eagles. But in a response to the claims, the RSPB’s conservation director, Martin Harper, says a large body of scientific evidence  shows “appropriately located windfarms have negligible impacts” on bird populations.”

Bird death and wind turbines: a look at the evidence | carbonbrief.org

 

Resource use: rare earth metals

To quote a correspondent to the VGS news pages:

“The rare minerals and the mining and processing create a huge amount of carbon before you even get on to the concrete, transport of materials, etc”

Yes, rare minerals are needed to produce this technology:

“Vast fortunes are being amassed in Inner Mongolia; the region has more than 90 per cent of the world’s legal reserves of rare earth metals, and specifically neodymium, the element needed to make the magnets in the most striking of green energy producers, wind turbines. Live has uncovered the distinctly dirty truth about the process used to extract neodymium: it has an appalling environmental impact that raises serious questions over the credibility of so-called green technology.”

Pollution on a disastrous scale – Environmental Cost of Wind Turbine Manufacturing | bccrwe.com

However, this mineral has many other uses – and wind turbines should not be singled out:

“Another important use of neodymium is as a component in the alloys used to make high-strength neodymium magnets—powerful permanent magnets.[7] These magnets are widely used in such products as microphones, professional loudspeakers, in-ear headphones, high performance hobby DC electric motors, and computer hard disks, where low magnet mass (or volume) or strong magnetic fields are required. Larger neodymium magnets are used in high-power-versus-weight electric motors (for example in hybrid cars) and generators (for example aircraft and wind turbine electric generators).[8]

Neodymium | wikipedia

The mining of rare metals is indeed very controversial, as covered by the Futures Forum blog:

Futures Forum: Conflict minerals in your gadgetry > the blood and sweat in phones and batteries

In fact, all extractive industries are considerable:

Futures Forum: The impacts of the mining industries

But Matt Ridley writing in the Spectator would disagree:

Wind turbines are neither clean nor green and they provide zero global energy | spectator

[Disclaimer: Matt ‘King Coal’ Ridley | desmog.co.uk and Scientists respond to Matt Ridley’s climate change claims | carbonbrief.org]

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Resource use: concrete

Concrete is used in the construction of anything, including wind farms:

“Estimates of carbon dioxide emissions associated with wind energy are between 0.02 pounds and 0.04 pounds per kilowatt-hour of electricity produced.  Electricity from the relatively clean natural gas produces an estimated 0.6 and 2 pounds of carbon dioxide per kilowatt-hour of electricity. A big part of the carbon in wind farm production comes from concrete.  Footings for a 300 foot wind turbine require up to 30 to 40 truckloads of concrete each, according to Rute Foundations, an organization dedicated to making wind use less concrete.  According to Green Spec, concrete production is the third greatest producer of anthropomorphic greenhouse gases.  If wind can use less concrete, the impact would be substantial.”

The environmental impacts of solar and wind energy | earth.com

Again, though, concrete is used in the production of anything, from roads to power stations to housing – and it does have a huge impact on the environment:

Futures Forum: Climate change: and concrete: “the massive CO2 emitter”

Futures Forum: How sustainable is the construction industry? … ‘Concrete is responsible for 7-10% of CO2 emissions’ … ‘The industry must shift its emphasis beyond recycling and towards reuse’

Futures Forum: Climate change: and changing the old, polluting ways of the cement industry

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For a useful summary:

Environmental impact of wind power | wikipedia

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Finally, perhaps we should just use less energy:

10 ways to use less energy – Telegraph

How do we get people to consume less energy? | debatingeurope.eu 

   
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