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Environmentalists and environmental scientists have criticized wind energy in various forums for its negative impacts on wildlife, especially birds. This article highlights that nuclear power and fossil-fuelled power systems have a host of environmental and wildlife costs as well, particularly for birds. Therefore, as a low-emission, low-pollution energy source, the wider use of wind energy can save wildlife and birds as it displaces these more harmful sources of electricity. The paper provides two examples: one relates to a calculation of avian fatalities across wind electricity, fossil-fueled, and nuclear power systems in the entire United States. It estimates that wind farms are responsible for roughly 0.27 avian fatalities per gigawatt-hour (GWh) of electricity while nuclear power plants involve 0.6 fatalities per GWh and fossil-fueled power stations are responsible for about 9.4 fatalities per GWh. Within the uncertainties of the data used, the estimate means that wind farm-related avian fatalities equated to approximately 46,000 birds in the United States in 2009, but nuclear power plants killed about 460,000 and fossil-fueled power plants 24 million. A second example summarizes the wildlife benefits from a 580-MW wind farm at Altamont Pass in California, a facility that some have criticized for its impact on wildlife. The paper lastly highlights other social and environmental benefits to wind farms compared to other sources of electricity and energy.
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The avian and wildlife costs of fossil
fuels and nuclear power
Benjamin K. Sovacool a
a Vermont Law School, Institute for Energy & the Environment,
South Royalton, Vermont, 05068-0444, United States
Version of record first published: 12 Dec 2012.
To cite this article: Benjamin K. Sovacool (2012): The avian and wildlife costs of fossil fuels and
nuclear power, Journal of Integrative Environmental Sciences, 9:4, 255-278
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The avian and wildlife costs of fossil fuels and nuclear power
Benjamin K. Sovacool*
Vermont Law School, Institute for Energy & the Environment, South Royalton, Vermont 05068-
0444, United States
(Received 30 June 2012; final version received 2 November 2012)
Environmentalists and environmental scientists have criticized wind energy in
various forums for its negative impacts on wildlife, especially birds. This
article highlights that nuclear power and fossil-fuelled power systems have a
host of environmental and wildlife costs as well, particularly for birds.
Therefore, as a low-emission, low-pollution energy source, the wider use of
wind energy can save wildlife and birds as it displaces these more harmful
sources of electricity. The paper provides two examples: one relates to a
calculation of avian fatalities across wind electricity, fossil-fueled, and nuclear
power systems in the entire United States. It estimates that wind farms are
responsible for roughly 0.27 avian fatalities per gigawatt-hour (GWh) of
electricity while nuclear power plants involve 0.6 fatalities per GWh and fossil-
fueled power stations are responsible for about 9.4 fatalities per GWh. Within
the uncertainties of the data used, the estimate means that wind farm-related
avian fatalities equated to approximately 46,000 birds in the United States in
2009, but nuclear power plants killed about 460,000 and fossil-fueled power
plants 24 million. A second example summarizes the wildlife benefits from a
580-MW wind farm at Altamont Pass in California, a facility that some have
criticized for its impact on wildlife. The paper lastly highlights other social and
environmental benefits to wind farms compared to other sources of electricity
and energy.
Keywords: wind power; avian mortality; wind turbines
Advocates of wind energy cherish its multitude of economic and energy security
benefits compared to other sources of conventional electricity generation. Engineers
and contractors can construct wind turbines more quickly than large-scale nuclear
reactors and coal-fired power plants (Sovacool and Watts 2009). Use of wind
turbines means less consumption and pollution of water resources – a real concern
since about half of water use in the United States involves producing electricity in
thermoelectric plants (US Geological Survey 2005). The deployment of wind farms
diversifies the fuel mix of utility companies, thereby reducing the overall risk of fuel
shortages, fuel cost hikes, and interruptions (Christensen et al. 2006). Wind energy
tends to be more widely accepted by communities and can contribute to economic
development through greater jobs and enhanced tax revenue than fossil-fueled
Journal of Integrative Environmental Sciences
Vol. 9, No. 4, December 2012, 255–278
ISSN 1943-815X print/ISSN 1943-8168 online
Ó2012 Taylor & Francis
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infrastructures which primarily send money out of the local economy. (Slattery et al.
2011, 2012).
Wind energy, however, is not free from environmental costs, and it has become
common practice for environmental scientists and environmental advocates to
criticize wind turbines for their direct and indirect hazards to birds, bats, and natural
habitats. Such authors have used the term ‘avian mortality’ to describe the process
whereby birds are killed by colliding with wind energy infrastructure. Writing in a
prominent biology journal, for example, Carrete et al. (2009) argue that wind farms
‘have adverse effects on wildlife, particularly through collision with turbines’ and
that ‘alarming numbers of Egyptian vultures [have been] found dead in the vicinity
of wind-farms’. A follow up-study concludes that ‘wind-farms have negative impacts
on the environment, mainly through habitat destruction and bird mortality’ (Carrete
et al. 2012). Cryan and Brown (2007) note that ‘wind turbines are killing bats in
many areas of North America’. Dahl et al. (2012) write that despite producing ‘clean’
electricity, ‘wind-farms do have impacts on the environment’. Other recently
published articles have documented negative impacts from wind turbines on Griffon
vultures in Spain (de Lucas et al. 2012), golden eagles in Scotland (Fielding et al.
2006), and ‘sensitive birds’ in the United Kingdom (Bright et al. 2008). Some have
proposed ‘no-go’ zones for wind farms based on probable flight paths and habitats
(Janss et al. 2010) and noted that wind farms can threaten non-avian species such as
ground squirrels (Rabina et al. 2006).
Indeed, biology journals are not alone in drawing attention to the wildlife
costs of wind energy. One of my earlier literature reviews of 616 studies on wind
energy and avian mortality found that every single one drew a negative connec-
tion between wind energy and the natural environment (Sovacool 2009). A recent,
cursory review undertaken by this author of articles published in the past 5 years
in three scientific databases (Science Direct, BioOne, and EBSCO Host Envi-
ronment Complete) – including prominent journals such as Biological Conserva-
tion, Bioscience, Journal of Wildlife Management, Ornithological Science, Wildlife
Biology,andWildlife Society Bulletin – identified 56 articles with ‘wind energy’ or
‘wind turbine’ in their title, abstract, or keywords. Every single one was negative in
its treatment of wind energy. A meta-survey of dozens of other studies also
concluded that ‘associated infrastructure required to support an array of turbines—
such as roads and transmission lines—represents an even larger potential threat to
wildlife than the turbines themselves because such infrastructure can result in
extensive habitat fragmentation and can provide avenues for invasion by exotic
species’ (Kuvlesky et al. 2007).
This evidence suggests that a consensus is emerging, or may already exist, within
the wildlife community that wind turbines are environmentally calamitous or at least
that such wind farms need better methods of construction, siting, and operational
performance. This article, however, argues that conventional electricity systems,
namely those combusting fossil fuels and fissioning atoms, present their own acute
risks to wildlife and birds, risks that are far greater than those from wind energy.
Consequently, wind energy brings with it advantages that make it an environmen-
tally friendly source of electricity. Through a synthesis of previously published
literature, the article notes that wind farms and nuclear power stations are res-
ponsible each for approximately 0.27 and 0.6 avian fatalities per gigawatt-hour
(GWh) of electricity while fossil-fueled power stations are responsible for about 9.4
fatalities per GWh.
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To make this argument about the costs of conventional electricity compared to
the benefits of wind energy, the article proceeds as follows. It first compares avian
fatalities from wind energy with other conventional forms of electricity generation at
the national scale of the United States. It then compares avian-related mortality
from wind turbines with nonenergy sources such as stationary towers and roads in
addition to cats and automobiles and presents the Altamont Pass case study. It lastly
summarizes some of the social and environmental benefits from wind energy,
presents the study’s caveats, and offers conclusions for those in the environmental
sciences and energy policymaking communities.
In making this case, a number of salient limitations deserve mentioning. This
study compares wind energy with nuclear power and fossil fuels but not other
sources of electricity such as solar panels or hydroelectric dams. Many of the avian
deaths from fossil fuels result indirectly from climate change, whereas those from
wind energy and nuclear power are more direct from collisions with equipment (wind
turbines and nuclear cooling towers) and contamination of land and water (uranium
mines and enrichment facilities). The study focuses almost entirely on birds rather
than bats and other types of wildlife. These shortcomings do mean that the study
should be viewed as a first-order estimate to be (hopefully) reinforced by future
Avian mortality compared to other energy sources
Perhaps surprisingly, for some readers of this Journal, wind farms appear to have
fewer avian deaths per GWh than fossil-fueled power plants (coal, natural gas, and
oil generators) and nuclear power plants. For wind turbines and wind farms,
fatalities arise from birds striking towers or turbine blades. For fossil-fueled power
stations, the most significant fatalities come from climate change, which is altering
weather patterns and destroying habitats that birds depend on. For nuclear power
plants, the risk spreads across hazardous pollution at uranium mine sites and
collisions with draft cooling structures. Yet, as this section of the paper
demonstrates, taken together, fossil-fueled facilities are about 35 times more
dangerous to birds on a per GWh basis than wind energy and nuclear power plants
twice as hazardous. In absolute terms, Table 1 shows that, when climate change is
included, avian fatalities from wind turbines include about 46,000 birds in 2009
but fossil-fueled stations were responsible for 24 million deaths and nuclear power
plants 458,000 (See Table 1).
Wind electricity
Unlike fossil fuel and nuclear power plants, which spread their avian-related impacts
across an entire fuel cycle, most of a wind farm’s impact occurs in one location.
Consider the real world operating performance of six wind farms, each varying
according to windiness, size, and location, in the United States. Using data collected
by Erickson (2004), though his numbers are uncorrected for searcher efficiency and
scavenger losses (Willis et al. 2010; Sovacool 2010)
, one can quantify avian fatalities
per GWh, inclusive of transmission and distribution lines within each wind farm, for
339 individual turbines constituting 274 MW of capacity spread across six wind
farms in Minnesota, Oregon, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming. Averaged
out over all six wind farms and presuming a capacity factor of 33% reported by the
Journal of Integrative Environmental Sciences 257
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Table 1. Comparative assessment of avian mortality for fossil fuel, nuclear, and wind power plants in the United States, 2011.
Fuel source Assumptions
Avian mortality
(total per year,
including climate
Avian mortality
(fatalities per
GWh, including
climate change)
Avian mortality
(total per year,
excluding climate
Avian mortality
(fatalities per
GWh, excluding
climate change)
Wind energy Based on real world operating
experience of 339 wind turbines
comprising six wind farms
constituting 274 MW of
installed capacity. Total avian
mortality per year taken by
applying 0.269 fatalities per
GWh multiplied by the 171,422
GWh of wind electricity
generated in 2011
46,113 0.269 46,113 0.269
Fossil fuels Based on real world operating
experience for two coal facilities
as well as the indirect damages
from mountain top removal
coal mining in Appalachia, acid
rain pollution on wood
thrushes, mercury pollution,
and anticipated impacts of
climate change. Total avian
mortality taken by applying the
9.36 fatalities per GWh
multiplied by the 2.56 million
GWh of electricity produced by
the country’s fleet of coal-,
natural gas-, and oil-fired
power stations in 2011
23.96 million 9.36 512,000 0.200
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Table 1. (Continued).
Fuel source Assumptions
Avian mortality
(total per year,
including climate
Avian mortality
(fatalities per
GWh, including
climate change)
Avian mortality
(total per year,
excluding climate
Avian mortality
(fatalities per
GWh, excluding
climate change)
Nuclear power Based on real world operating
experience at four nuclear
power plants and two uranium
mines/mills. Total avian
mortality taken by applying the
0.638 fatalities per GWh
multiplied by the 718,388 GWh
of electricity produced by the
country’s nuclear plants in 2011
458,331 0.638 458,331 0.638
Note: 2011 electricity generation statistics taken from US Energy Information Administration.
Journal of Integrative Environmental Sciences 259
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US Department of Energy (2008), those 339 turbines were responsible for 0.269
avian deaths per GWh.
Coal, oil, and natural gas power plants
Coal-, oil-, and natural gas-fired power plants induce avian deaths at various points
throughout their fuel cycle: upstream during coal mining, onsite collision and
electrocution with operating plant equipment, and downstream poisoning and death
caused by acid rain, mercury pollution, and climate change.
Starting with the upstream part of their fuel cycle, Winegrad (2004) estimates
that mountaintop removal and valley fill operations in four states – Kentucky,
Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia – destroyed more than 387,000 acres of
mature deciduous forests. Such a loss of forest will result in approximately 191,722
deaths of the global population of Cerulean Warblers. These deaths can be loosely
calculated to amount to 0.02 Warbler deaths per GWh (Sovacool 2009).
Avian wildlife also frequently collides with or faces electrocution at thermo-
electric power plant equipment. An observation of 500 m of distribution lines
feeding a 400-MW conventional power plant in Spain estimated that it electrocuted
467 birds and killed an additional 52 in collisions with lines and towers over the
course of 2 years, creating about 260 deaths per year (Janss 2000). Presuming a
capacity factor of 85%, and that power plant was responsible for 0.09 deaths per
GWh. Similarly, Anderson (1978) observed 300 waterfowl killed each year by
colliding into Kincaid Power Plant near Lake Sangchris, Illinois. Presuming that the
1108-MW power station operated at 85% capacity factor, it was responsible for
about 0.04 deaths per GWh. The mean for both facilities is 0.07 fatalities per GWh.
Acid precipitation and deposition occurs when sulfur and nitrogen compounds
rise into the atmosphere and combine with water to then fall to the earth as rain,
snow, mist, and fog. Studies have linked acid rain to bronchial constriction, elevated
pulmonary resistance, and metabolism changes within a variety of avian species
(Treissman et al. 2003). After taking into account and adjusting for soil, habitat
alteration, population density, and vegetation cover, an extensive study from the
Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology estimated that acid rain annually reduced the
population of the wood thrushes in the United States by 2% to 5% (Hames et al.
2002). The upper end of the estimate reflects wood thrushes living at higher
elevations and thus subject to greater levels of acid rain found in the Adirondacks,
Appalachian Mountains, Great Smokey Mountains, and the Allegheny Plateau. The
results can be used to loosely quantify avian deaths of 0.05 fatalities per GWh.
Mercury, another hazardous pollutant with fossil-fueled electricity generation,
can cause decreased bird egg weight, embryo malformations, lowered hatchability,
neural shrinkage, and increased mortality. Mercury poisoning and contamination
were responsible for population declines ranging from 1% to 11% across 14 species
of penguins, albatross, ducks, eagles, hawks, terns, gulls, and other birds (Burger and
Gochfeld 1997). These numbers, as well, can be roughly quantified into 0.06 deaths
per GWh.
Finally, while perhaps the most difficult to quantify, climate change is already
threatening the survival of millions of birds around the world. Thomas et al. (2004)
concluded that climate change was the single greatest long-term threat to birds and
other avian wildlife. Looking at the mid-range scenarios in climate change expected
by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, they projected that 15% to 37%
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of all species of birds could be extinct by 2050. These numbers, too, can be
tentatively quantified into 9.16 deaths per GWh from oil, natural gas, and coal-fired
power stations.
Adding the avian deaths from coal mining, plant operation, acid rain, mercury,
and climate change together results in a total of 9.36 fatalities per GWh.
Nuclear power
The threat to avian wildlife from nuclear power plants can be divided into upstream
and downstream fatalities.
Upstream, uranium milling and mining can poison and kill hundreds of birds per
facility per year. Abandoned open pit uranium mines in Wyoming have formed lakes
hazardous to wildlife. Uranium-bearing formations are usually associated with strata
containing high concentrations of selenium. For example, one of these pits killed 300
birds during a single year (US Fish and Wildlife Service 2008). Presuming this rate
stayed constant, deaths at this mine therefore correlate to about 0.45 deaths per GWh.
Like fossil-fueled power stations and wind farms, avian fauna can also collide
with nuclear power plants. Three thousand birds died in two successive nights in
1982 from collisions with cooling towers at Florida Power Corporation’s Crystal
River Generating Facility (Maehr et al. 1983). Given that the power plant now hosts
an 838-MW nuclear reactor, and presuming it operated with a capacity factor of
90% and that the 3000 deaths were the only ones throughout the year, the facility
was responsible for 0.454 avian deaths per GWh. Ornithologists observed 274 fatal
bird collisions with an elevated cooling tower at the Limerick nuclear power plant in
Pennsylvania from 1979 to 1980 (Veltri and Klem 2005). Since the Limerick plant
has a 1200-MW reactor, and also assuming it operated at a 90% capacity factor, it
was responsible for 0.261 deaths per GWh. At the Susquehanna plant in eastern
Pennsylvania, 1500 dead birds were collected between 1978 and 1986 for an average
of 187 fatalities per year (Biewald 2005). Assuming that the 2200 MW plant operated
at 90% capacity factor, it was responsible for 0.01 deaths per GWh. Extensive
surveys for dead birds were also conducted at the Davis-Bess nuclear plant near
Lake Erie in Northern Ohio. Ornithologists recorded a total of 1554 bird fatalities or
an average of 196 per year from 1972 to 1979 (Biewald 2005). Given that the power
plant hosts an 873-MW reactor, and assuming it operated with a 90% capacity
factor, and the plant was responsible for 0.0285 fatalities per GWh. Taking the mean
for each of the four power plants results in 0.188 deaths per GWh.
The total avian deaths per GWh for nuclear power plants are therefore about
At least three meaningful limitations concerning these estimates deserve to be
mentioned. First, none of them account for avian species diversity. That is, they
assume that ‘a bird is a bird is a bird.’ Biological differences between species is not
accounted for, essentially meaning a dead raptor has the same significance as a dead
sparrow or starling, even though the former is larger, longer-lived, and higher up the
trophic level.
Second, for simplicity, the estimates apply to birds but not to bats – excluded in
part because bats are mammals (Sovacool 2010), and also because the author was
Journal of Integrative Environmental Sciences 261
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unaware of any reliable studies that looked specifically at the impact of coal, natural
gas, oil, and nuclear power facilities on bats. Wind turbines do, however, have bat-
related mortalities (Willis et al. 2010; Arnett et al. 2008; Kunz et al. 2007), and the
author wholeheartedly encourages research comparing bat fatalities across various
energy sources. Indeed, evidence from Barclay et al. (2007) compiled from 21
separate wind energy sites suggests that bat deaths may be as high as 1.46 per GWh.
Third, calculating the relationship between avian fatalities and climate change is
admittedly simplistic. The role of climate change on bird extinctions, although
indeed worrying, is not conclusive and as such should be approached with extreme
caution. Studies looking at the expansion and contraction of ranges, shifts in
migratory patterns, cumulative effects with other environmental threats, and pre-
dictions of ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ are only recently surfacing (see Møller et al. 2004;
Crick 2004; Schwartz et al. 2006; Jetz et al. 2007; Sekercioglu et al. 2008; Gilman
et al. 2010 for a sample). Moreover, the author has presumed that Thomas et al.’s
(2004) estimate of bird species extinctions can be extrapolated to the number of
individuals that will perish and that those deaths will occur at a constant rate year-to-
year. Instead, the avian species most affected by climate change might be those with
the smallest populations, and rates of decrease will probably vary, with most deaths
occurring closer to 2050. The author is unaware of any reliable technique for how to
account for these complexities within existing models.
Avian mortality compared to other non-energy sources
Moving away from avian fatalities per unit of energy produced to absolute numbers
of avian deaths, millions of birds die annually when they strike high voltage trans-
mission lines, collide with tall stationary communications towers, encounter moving
automobiles, and fall victim to stalking cats.
High voltage transmission lines – which rarely serve wind farms, and instead
interlink large-scale centralized baseload generators combusting fossil fuels or
moderating the process of nuclear fission – can electrocute birds of prey, ravens, and
thermal soarers and cause collision casualties with ‘poor’ fliers (Janss 2000). Martin
and Shaw (2010) report that roughly 25% of juveniles and 6% of adult white storks
in Europe die annually from power line collisions and that, in South Africa, 12% of
blue cranes and 30% of Denham’s bustards are killed annually by collisions with
power lines.
Furthermore, Benı
´pez et al. (2010) assessed the impact of road networks
and other ‘linear infrastructure’ on wildlife and ecosystems and documented that
they degrade bird habitats, isolate populations, increase human access, and induce
road mortality. After reviewing 49 studies with 90 datasets and 2107 data points,
they concluded that such infrastructure was responsible in a decline in species
abundance of 28% to 36% for birds within 2.6 km and 25% to 38% for mammals
within 17 km. Ecologist Paul Hawken (2010) has also calculated that the
automobile-centered transport system in the United States requires a paved area
equal to all arable land in Ohio, Indiana, and Pennsylvania to function and that it
kills millions of wild animals each week (including domestic pets, deer, and birds).
Aircraft pose another threat to avian wildlife, with one study documenting 44 species
belonging to 37 genera at risk in Canada (Solman 1973), and officials at airports
commonly using ‘lethal control’ to prevent birds from interfering with flight safety
(Burt 2009).
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Furthermore, windows exert a significant role in avian injury and death. Window
fatalities are separated into two categories. The first type of window-associated avian
death is from birds who fly unaware of clear windows believing they are flying
through an unobstructed pathway. The second type results from male birds
defending their territories against mirrored trespassers. Birds are at elevated risk –
compared to insects and mammals – due to the amount of momentum they generate
during flight (Klem, 1989; 1990a; 1990b).
The impacts of wind turbines are therefore negligible compared to these other
sources of avian mortality. Upward of one-quarter of all bird species within the
United States are documented striking anthropogenic structures. Estimates of
annual avian deaths from collisions with buildings range from just under 100 million
to greater than 1 billion casualties. Erickson et al. (2005) estimate 550 million
building and structure related deaths – analyzed from surveys that took into account
scavenging data and scavenger efficiency bias. After surveying wind development in
California, Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas,
Washington, and Wyoming (the 10 states with the most installed wind power
capacity at the time), the US Government Accountability Office (2005) calculated
that building windows are by far the largest source of bird morality, accounting for
97 million to 976 million deaths per year. Attacks from domestic and feral cats
accounted for 110 million deaths; poisoning from pesticides 72 million deaths; and
collisions with communication towers 4 to 50 million deaths. Yet another study
projected that glass windows kill 100 to 900 million birds per year; transmission lines
to conventional power plants, 175 million; hunting, more than 100 million; house
cats, 100 million; cars and trucks, 50 to 100 million; and agriculture, 67 million
(Pasqualetti 2004). Domestic and feral cats pose such a substantial risk to avian
wildlife in Wisconsin, where they were projected to kill 39 to 40 million songbirds per
year, that the state proposed allowing game hunters to shoot un-collared felines
(Lane 2005).
Though perhaps less reliable due to their vested interest, the Canadian Wind
Energy Association estimated that more than 10,000 migratory birds die each year in
the city of Toronto between 11 pm and 5 am from collisions with brightly lit office
towers (Marsh 2007). A 29-year study of a single television tower in Florida found
that it killed more than 44,000 birds of 186 species, and another 38-year study at a
communication tower in Wisconsin found even greater deaths amounting to 121,560
birds of 123 species (Winegrad 2004). The National Academy of Sciences (2007)
attributed less than 0.003% of anthropogenic bird deaths every year to wind turbines
in four eastern states in the United States. It also confirmed that collisions with
buildings and communication towers pose a much greater risk. Put another way, the
findings from the National Academy imply that it takes more than 30 wind turbines
to reach a ‘kill-rate’ of one bird per year (Marris and Fairless 2007).
Altamont Pass: a revealing case study
Environmentalists and some media commentators have documented negative
impacts on avian wildlife from the 580-MW wind farm at Altamont Pass. Yet
closer examination reveals that it, too, appears to have net wildlife (and human
health) benefits.
The Altamont Pass in California is an area known for high winds, straddling the
borders between Alameda, Contra Costa, and San Joaquin counties about 48 km (30
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miles) east of San Francisco. The site of the nation’s first large wind farm and at one
point the largest wind farm in the world, it had approximately 6700 wind turbines,
some of them shown in Figure 1, representing $1 billion in capital investment and
reached a capacity of 630 MW at the peak of its development in 1986 (Smith 1987).
At one point in the 1980s, its production represented over half of the world’s wind
generation (McCubbin and Sovacool 2011a) – making it an ideal test case to explore
what social and environmental benefits, if any, accrue to larger scale wind farms.
During the early 1990s, concern about avian mortality at Altamont Pass began to
surface. A 1992 assessment sponsored by the California Energy Commission
estimated than more than 1766 bats and 4721 wild birds, representing more than 40
species, some of them endangered, perished every year while passing through the
Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area (Asmus 2005). Recent follow-up studies have
tended to confirm this trend: Thelander and Rugge (2000) and Smallwood and
Thelander (2005) studied raptor mortality at Altamont Pass and estimated that as
many as 835 were killed each year. Thelander (2004) projected that 881 to 1300 birds
perished there per year. Smallwood and Thelander (2008) calculated that as many as
67 golden eagles perished annually.
However, relying on pollution and mortality data from the Co-Benefits Risk
Assessment Tool (COBRA) developed by the US Environmental Protection Agency,
research undertaken with a colleague suggests that Altamont Pass might save more
wildlife than it harms (McCubbin and Sovacool 2011a, 2011b). To make this claim,
we examined and quantified the health and environmental benefits of wind power at
Altamont Pass for two periods: 1987–2006, its first two decades of operation, and
2012 to 2031, 20 years of forecasted production for newer turbines installed within
the resource area. Our study calculated human and wildlife health impacts from
reduced ambient PM
levels, using well-established human health impact and
valuation functions and some preliminary estimates and qualitative discussion of
climate change.
We found, perhaps unexpectedly, that electricity production from Altamont Pass
reduces emissions of SO
, and greenhouse gases to the degree that it has
a net beneficial impact on avian wildlife. Over the 40-year period under
consideration, Altamont Pass reduced an estimated 164 tons of SO
, 10,400 tons
of NO
, 1,570 tons of PM
, and 39.4 million tons of CO
. Put another way, the
emissions saved during 20-years of operation at Altamont Pass amount to more than
10.4 million tons (23 billion pounds) of NO
, PM, and CO
– enough to cover
the City of Oakland, California, in 114 m (373 ft) of pollution.
Figure 1. Panoramic view of the Altamont Pass wind farm in California.
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In turn, the avoidance of these emissions reduces adverse effects to humans,
wildlife, and ecosystems. By our estimation, the generation of Altamont Pass wind
power saved approximately 168 fewer premature deaths and $1.4 billion in human
health benefits. It avoided 128,700 avian deaths due to reduced PM
exposure and
climate change – about 3217 birds per year, more than twice as many as the highest
range of Thelander’s (2004) estimate suggesting an annual death rate of 1300 birds
(though, to be fair, the species of birds saved would likely be different than the species
killed). Finally, we calculated the avoided damages of reducing greenhouse gas
emissions at $2.21 billion measured in 2010 dollars. Table 2 summarizes these results.
What is striking about these findings is that (a) they are likely conservative and
(b) they have been confirmed by follow-up studies. Our calculations underestimate
the benefits from wind energy because they only compared it to a baseline of natural
gas power plants rather than coal- or oil-fired facilities. Furthermore, we did not
include upstream PM
emissions associated with energy production from fossil
fuels, and we assumed that premature mortality occurred with a conservative 20-year
lag, when work by Schwartz et al (2008) suggests that most deaths occur within the
first 2 or 3 years. In addition, we did not include negative externalities associated
with natural gas for vertebrate wildlife and fish, nor did we account for the adverse
effects caused by ozone to human health, crops, and forests. Our own follow-up
research has also found the same trend for wind farms – substantial environmental
benefits exceeding costs in Idaho (McCubbin and Sovacool 2011b; 2011c).
In short, the evidence gathered here suggests that the negative environmental
image of Altamont Pass, and perhaps other large-scale wind farms similar to it, may
be undeserved, or at least in need of proper contextualization. Moreover, if these
older and excessively less efficient wind farms have clear environmental advantages
compared to other modern electricity sources, then newer and more efficient wind
farms likely have even greater benefits.
The social and environmental advantages of wind energy
Although more complicated and difficult to calculate than species-specific avian
fatalities, wind energy also displaces a broad number of social and environmental
threats from other electricity sources. The National Research Council (2009) has
noted that every kilowatt-watt hour (kWh) of conventional electricity generated
produces a laundry list of damages, or ‘negative externalities,’ which include
radioactive waste and abandoned uranium mines and mills, acid rain and its damage
to fisheries and crops, water degradation and excessive consumption, particle
pollution, and cumulative environmental damage to ecosystems and biodiversity
through species loss and habitat destruction.
While the list of externalities from the National Research Council is incomplete,
Thomas Sundqvist and Patrik Soderholm (2002) analyzed 38 electricity externality
studies and 132 estimates for individual generators to determine the extent that
positive and negative externalities were not reflected in electricity prices. They found
that these costs, when averaged across studies, represented an additional 0.29 ¢/kWh
for wind energy to 14.87 ¢/kWh for coal-fired electricity shown in Table 3. In this
compilation of data across various energy sources, wind energy was by far the
cleanest source.
Taking the mean values from Sundqvist and Soderholm (2002) and Sundqvist
(2004) and adjusting them to 2010 dollars, one gets a rough picture for just how
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Table 2. Summary of avoided impacts from Altamont Pass wind power generation.
Best estimate (low to high)*
1987–2006 2012–2031 Total
emissions (tons avoided) 59 (44–74) 105 (76–134) 164 (121–208)
emissions (tons avoided) 6,050 (2,720–9,390) 4,300 (956–7,650) 10,400 (3,670–17,000)
emissions (tons avoided) 617 (395–839) 956 (573–1,340) 1,570 (968–2,180)
-e emissions (mil. tons avoided) 14.6 (11–18.3) 24.8 (18.3–31.2) 39.4 (29.3–49.5)
Human mortality (deaths avoided; due to PM
) 64 (12–116) 104 (17–191) 168 (29–307)
Total human health effects ($ million; due to PM
) $480 ($88–$870) $920 ($150–$1,700) $1,400 ($240–$2,500)
Avian deaths avoided (PM
) 4,810 (1,220–8,410) 5,870 (1,280–10,500) 10,700 (2,500–18,900)
Avian deaths avoided (climate change extinctions) 40,800 (32,500–49,200) 77,400 (61,600–93,300) 118,000 (94,000–142,000)
Benefits of avoided CO
-e emissions ($ million) $571 ($188–$954) $1,640 ($531–$2,760) $2,210 ($719–$3,710)
*The best estimate is an average of the low and high impact scenario estimates, which are in parentheses. Note that numbers in this table are rounded to three significant
digits, so a row may not sum to the total. Costs are in 2010 dollars.
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severe these externalities are for the United States.
Adding the likely damages from
oil, natural gas, and coal equates to $415.9 billion in negative externalities, which is
$129.8 billion more than the $276.1 billion in revenue the electricity industry
reported for 2009. In other words, fossil-fuel-fired electricity generation created
$415.9 billion of additional costs that neither producers nor consumers had to
pay for in 2009, costs that were instead shifted to society at large in the form
of premature deaths, debilitating illnesses, hospital admissions, and reduced
Here is the bad news. First, Sundqvist and Soderholm likely underestimate
damages. In some cases, the studies they sampled relied on a ‘willingness-to-pay’
metric to assess damages, but many things such as clear skies or a dead child are
difficult to impossible to quantify in dollars. Furthermore, virtually none of the
studies accounted for the risk of irreversible environmental damages – such as
tipping points that are crossed as the earth’s climate changes, unknown ecological
thresholds that are passed, and species extinctions – impossible to recover from once
they happen. Most of the studies they surveyed modeled damages associated with a
single power plant and not the combined or cumulative damages from a fleet of
power plants or an entire utility system. Many of the studies they sampled assumed
reference, rather than representative, technologies; that is, they assumed benchmark
and state-of-the art technologies instead of those used by utilities in the real world
where many power plants are more than 50 years old. Almost none of the studies
they analyzed included the human health effects of exposure to electric and magnetic
fields, which some researchers claim may contribute to childhood cancer. Lastly, and
most importantly, when surveying externalities, Sundqvist and Soderholm did not
include any value for CO
and climate change. They explain that their meta-survey
found a range of damages so large (from 1.4 ¢/kWh to 700 ¢/kWh) that they decided
to exclude climate change externalities. This specifically undervalues the benefits
from wind energy, since a rigorous meta-survey from Jacobson (2009) concludes that
wind energy had the lowest lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of any electricity
source, numbers shown in Table 4.
Second, other independent studies have corroborated the truly colossal negative
externalities with fossil fuels such as coal. In one recent study, traditional coal-fired
technology appeared to produce affordable power – under 5 ¢/kWh over the life of
the equipment, which included capital, operating and maintenance costs, and fuel
costs – while wind-turbine generators and biomass plants produced power that cost
7.4 ¢/kWh and 8.9 ¢/kWh, respectively, and tended to require larger amounts of
land. However, when analysts factored in a host of externality costs, coal costs rose
Table 3. Negative externalities associated with electricity generation (cents/kWh in 1998
Statistic Coal Oil Gas Nuclear Hydro Wind Solar Biomass
Min 0.06 0.03 0.003 0.0003 0.02 0 0 0
Max 72.42 39.93 13.22 64.45 26.26 0.80 1.69 22.09
Mean 14.87 13.57 5.02 8.63 3.84 0.29 0.69 5.20
Std. Dev. 16.89 12.51 4.73 18.62 8.40 0.20 0.57 6.11
N 291524 16 11 14 7 16
Note: Source: Sundqvist (2004, Table 1). N ¼number of estimates included.
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to almost 17 ¢/kWh, while biomass and wind plants yielded power costing much less
(Roth and Ambs 2004). Another assessment calculated that if damages to the
environment in the form of noxious emissions and impacts on human health
resulting from combustion of coal, oil, and natural gas were included in electricity
prices, coal would cost 261.8% more than it does (Norland and Ninassi 1998).
Kammen and Pacca (2004) found that if they internalized the cost of mortality and
asthma, just two items, into electricity rates, then the annual cost of operation for
conventional coal power plants in Illinois, Massachusetts, and Washington was 50 ¢/
kWh, almost eight times higher than the average 6.5 ¢/kWh paid by consumers at the
Many of the negative externalities from conventional energy systems
specifically affect wildlife and ecosystems. For instance, one recent report for
the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (EBF 2009)
qualitatively compared the risks to vertebrate wildlife from different power
sources, including natural gas-fired plants and wind energy. After conducting a
systematic review of the scientific literature, the study described the risks due to
each of six lifecycle stages for each power source and then assigns a ‘relative level
of risk’ to vertebrate wildlife ranging from lowest potential, lower potential,
moderate potential, higher potential, to highest potential – see Tables 5 and 6.
When looking at each lifecycle stage, it is clear that wind energy has the least
potential to harm vertebrate wildlife in comparison to natural gas, coal, oil,
nuclear, and hydroelectricity.
EBF’s assessment that wind energy has a collection of environmental benefits –
displaced resource extraction, fewer energy accidents, lower levels of noxious
pollutants involved in manufacturing which all benefit various types of wildlife – or
the inverse, that fossil-fueled facilities exert great damage on the environment, has
been substantiated by numerous other studies (Ingelfinger and Anderson 2004;
Naugle et al. 2006; Sawyer et al. 2006; Russell 2005; US Fish and Wildlife Service
2009; Pirie et al. 2009; Meng and Zhang 2002; Sovacool 2008b).
Whether looking at absolute avian fatalities or fatalities per unit of energy delivered,
this article has demonstrated that nuclear power and fossil fuels are hazardous to
Table 4. Lifecycle equivalent carbon dioxide emissions (grams of CO
/kWh) for selected
electricity sources.
Technology Lifecycle
Risk of leakage,
accident, and
disruption Total Mean
Wind 2.8–7.4 0 0 2.8–7.4 5.1
Concentrated solar power 8.5–11.3 0 0 8.5–11.3 9.9
Geothermal 15.1–55 1–6 0 16.1–61 38.6
Solar PV 19–59 0 0 19–59 39
Hydroelectric 17–22 31–49 0 48–71 59.5
Nuclear 9–70 59–106 0–4.1 68–180 124
Clean coal with CCS 255–442 51–87 1.8–42 308–571 439
Note: Source: Jacobson 2009.
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Table 5. Relative risk levels to wildlife by energy lifecycle stage.
Lifecycle stage Wind Natural gas Coal Oil Nuclear Hydro
Resource extraction None Higher Highest Higher Highest None
Fuel transportation None Moderate Lower Highest Lowest None
Facility construction Lowest Lowest Lower Lower Lowest Highest
Power generation Moderate Moderate Highest Higher Moderate Moderate
Transmission and delivery Moderate Moderate Moderate Moderate Moderate Moderate
Facility decommissioning Lowest Lowest Lower Lowest Lowest Higher
Note: Source: Based on EBF (2009, Table 3-1).
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Table 6. Effects on invertebrate wildlife by lifecycle category and relative level of risk.
Lifecycle stage Effects of wind energy Effects of natural gas-fired plants
Resource extraction NA Injury or death to wildlife and habitat degradation from oil
spills and wastes in oil pits when natural gas is extracted
from onshore crude oil pumping.
Injury or death to wildlife and habitat degradation from
accidental oil spills and discharge of drilling muds, cuttings,
and production water as a result of simultaneous offshore
oil and natural gas exploration and extraction.
Injury and mortality to wildlife (e.g. birds and bats) from
collision with offshore oil and gas platforms.
Injury and mortality to wildlife (birds) from exposure to toxic
emissions and fire from stacks of onshore and offshore oil
and gas platforms.
Fuel transportation NA Habitat fragmentation along pipeline route, leading to
invasion of edge species and displacement of interior
species. Pipeline gas leaks (e.g. methane, a contributor to
greenhouse gasses).
Facility construction Habitat fragmentation from the
construction of electric
transmission facilities and roads.
Habitat fragmentation from the construction of electric
transmission facilities and roads.
Loss of habitat through land clearing
for facilities.
Loss of habitat through land clearing for facilities.
Temporary wildlife disturbance and
displacement from construction
noise and activity.
Wildlife disturbance and displacement from construction noise
and activity.
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Table 6. (Continued).
Lifecycle stage Effects of wind energy Effects of natural gas-fired plants
Power generation Injury and mortality to birds and
bats from collision with wind
Injury and mortality to birds and bats from collision with
vertical structures (e.g. stacks, cooling towers).
Mortality, injury, and behavioral changes to wildlife caused by
toxic air emissions.
Injury and mortality to aquatic wildlife from cooling water
intake systems.
Injury, mortality, and behavioral changes in fish from thermal
discharge from cooling systems.
Aquatic habitat degradation from acidification of lakes and
streams caused by air emissions (e.g. SO
) deposited
as dry and wet acidic deposition.
Upland and alpine habitat degradation from injury or death to
vegetation caused by acidic deposition.
Habitat loss from climate changes caused by greenhouse gas
Geographical range changes, abundance changes, change in
timing of migration or emergence, change in timing of
breeding activities, and change in food sources of wildlife
from climate change caused by greenhouse gas emission.
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Table 6. (Continued).
Lifecycle stage Effects of wind energy Effects of natural gas-fired plants
Transmission and delivery Injury and mortality to birds from
collisions with transmission and
distribution lines
Injury and mortality to birds from collisions with transmission
and distribution lines.
Mortality to birds caused by
electrocutions from power lines
and substations.
Mortality to birds caused by electrocutions from power lines
and substations.
Habitat fragmentation from
maintenance of transmission
Habitat fragmentation from maintenance of transmission
Decommission Wildlife disturbance and
displacement from demolition
process due to noise and activity.
Wildlife disturbance and displacement from demolition
process due to noise and activity.
Injury and mortality from contamination of aquatic systems
caused by mobilizing electricity generation wastes.
Note: Source: Based on EBF.
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birds and that, contrariwise, wind energy is far less harmful to wildlife. Even the 580-
MW Altamont Pass wind farm has meaningful wildlife benefits. To recap, about
46,000 avian mortalities were associated with wind farms across the United States in
2009 but nuclear plants killed about 458,000 and fossil-fueled power plants almost 24
million, estimates illustrated by Figure 2. Figure 2 also reveals how the number of
absolute birds killed by wind energy pales in comparison to other causes such as
windows and cats. Regardless of where the wind turbines are located, by minimizing
reliance on fossil fuels and nuclear power, they prevent the death and injury of
wildlife that would otherwise occur across the world’s coal mines, uranium tail
ponds, oil refineries, natural gas facilities, uranium acidified forests, polluted lakes,
and habitats soon to be threatened by climate change.
A few caveats, however, deserve mentioning when observing the estimates
provided by Figure 2. More sophisticated analysis is called for that takes into
account the complexities of the wind, fossil-fueled, and nuclear energy fuel cycles and
also compares these three sources of electricity with other alternatives, including
energy efficiency. The shortcomings of the assessment provided here are numerous: a
focus on bird deaths but not bird births; treating all birds as ‘the same’ rather than
accounting for species diversity; a small sample size for wind, coal, and nuclear
facilities that may not be representative; a focus on individual species such as the
wood thrush or waterfowl to produce overall estimates of avian mortality that are
definitely not representative (and very likely conservative); a presumption that coal
was only mined using mountain top removal (thereby excluding the impacts from
other types of coal mining); fatalities that happened on particular days and weeks
that were then presumed to be the only ones throughout the year (also resulting in
conservative estimates); an assumption that only carbon dioxide emissions from
Figure 2. Avian deaths per year in the United States from various energy and non-energy
sources, 2009. Note: When a range of estimates has been given, the figure presents only data
for the lowest end of that range.
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power plants contribute to climate change (again conservative for excluding other
greenhouse gases); highly uncertain deaths attributed to climate change that may be
prevented if future greenhouse gas emissions are significantly reduced.
Put another way, lumping estimates from different species, locations, and time
periods do not capture temporal differences relating to migration patterns or spatial
differences concerning migratory corridors. A study with a larger sample size that
focused on a greater number of species across more locations, including migration
routes and other important areas, over a longer period of time and encompassing the
entire part of the fuel cycle for different electricity systems would be useful and
expedient. Moreover, these findings are not a license for wind turbines to kill birds,
for wind farms to be sited recklessly, or for research to cease on better designs that
make wind energy less destructive to wildlife and its habitat. Although wind turbines
have fewer fatalities per GWh than other sources, they still have negative
externalities and are not completely benign.
Nonetheless, placing the issue of avian deaths in wider context is essential so that
wildlife advocates, environmentalists, and even policymakers can better understand
the true costs and benefits involved in producing electricity. Wind turbines do not
exist in isolation; they are part of an electric utility system and compete with an
entire portfolio of options including energy efficiency and distributed generation as
well as nuclear reactors, natural gas turbines, and coal-fired power plants. Looking
at the animal deaths and other social and environmental costs for wind turbines but
not their benefits, and also ignoring the costs of fossil fueled and nuclear options, is
(at best) incomplete and (at worst) misleading.
The author is grateful to Donald McCubbin from the University of California San Diego for
his helpful suggestions for revision. The author is also appreciative to Altamont Winds, Inc.,
and Idaho Winds, Inc., for supporting the research conducted here. Despite their assistance,
however, all conclusions and statements in this article reflect only the views of the author.
1. Although Erickson professes to using ‘standardized fatality monitoring data’, Willis et al.
point out that, when corrected for scavenger and efficiency losses, the number of birds killed
by these six wind farms could be as high as 0.653 per GWh. However, I do not use the
numbers from Willis et al. because the associated avian deaths for nuclear power and fossil
fuels are not adjusted for scavenger and efficiency losses. I wanted a comparison between the
three sources of energy to remain consistent, viewing ‘apples to apples’ as it were.
2. The wood thrush population in the United States totals about 14 million, so a mean
population reduction of 3.5% amounts to 490,000 deaths per year. Fossil-fueled electricity
combustion is responsible for about one-third to one-fourth of all sulfur dioxide and
nitrogen oxide emissions, the two primary precursors to acid rain, making it indirectly
responsible for about 122,500 to 161,700 wood thrush deaths. Taking the mean, 142,100,
and dividing it by the 2.87 million GWh coal, oil, and gas generators produced in 2006,
one gets a fatality rate of 0.05 GWh.
3. The National Audubon Society has placed more than 6.7 million albatross, ducks, hawks,
terns, and gulls in the United States on their Watch List of threatened species. While these
numbers are indeed a small fraction of the overall population, attributing a mean
population reduction of 6% correlates with 402,000 mercury-induced deaths. Fossil-fueled
power plants are responsible for about 40% of the country’s mercury emissions. Taking
40% of 402,000 one gets 160,800 and dividing it by the 2.87 million GWh generated by
fossil-fueled power stations results in 0.06 deaths per GWh.
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4. There are more than 9800 species and an estimated global population of 100 billion to 1
trillion individual wild birds in the world (a mean estimate of 500 billion birds). The
United States is presumed to have between 10% and 12% of this total, or roughly 55
billion birds, within its geographic borders in the summer. Taking the mean in climate
change induced avian deaths expected by Thomas et al. (26%), one gets 14.3 billion bird
deaths spread across 38 years for the United States or an average of 376 million dead birds
per year. Attributing 7% of these deaths to fossil-fueled power plants (responsible for
39% of the country’s carbon dioxide emissions, and US emissions are responsible for
about 18% of the global total), one gets 26.3 million birds for 2.87 million GWh per year
or 9.16 deaths per GWh. This estimate is a very crude approximation – for more see the
section on ‘Limitations’.
5. Taking the extra cost associated with scrubbed coal (19.79 ¢/kWh in 2010 dollars) – and
multiplying it by coal’s generation in 2009 (1756 billion kWh), amounts to $347.5 billion
in damages. For oil generators, the number is $6.9 billion (17.97 ¢/kWh and 38,937 million
kWh). For natural gas power plants, the number is $61.5 billion (6.68 ¢/kWh and 921
billion kWh).
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... In such a scenario, run-of-the-river micro-vertical axis water turbines (μVAWT) supply a more efficient and workable solution for harnessing the kinetic energy of flowing water and converting it into electrical energy than the horizontal axis water turbine (HAWT) options [6]. 80 67 74 95 221 486 824 734 382 174 111 80 Gilgit, Gilgit 66 56 43 71 224 706 908 671 358 132 108 87 Shigar, Shigar 18 14 11 39 71 329 737 696 334 94 49 32 Astore, Doyian 28 25 25 60 186 371 389 253 139 66 49 38 Swat, Kalam 14 14 23 50 130 253 249 166 90 38 24 21 Average flowrate per month 66 78 123 221 355 618 859 739 371 149 97 79 Average winter months flow 89 Average summer months flow 473 Alternately, using fossil fuels would cause great harm to the pristine natural environment [7][8][9][10]. Hydrokinetic turbines have the advantage of a smaller footprint than other available renewable options, like solar power, which has a power density of around 0.16-0.25 kW/m 2 , [11] and would need clearing up large forest areas. ...
... Similarly, erecting huge towers to harness wind energy can be disruptive to the natural environment [12][13][14][15][16]. Thus, under the existing conditions of the Southeast Asia region, exploiting the kinetic energy of flowing water seems to be the more environmentally friendly option, as it encompasses many socioeconomic benefits for the region's population as well [17,18]. Other 216 359 722 1336 1712 1740 1410 999 623 355 265 234 Snyok, Yogo 52 46 43 46 109 476 1249 1309 546 167 101 77 Hunza, Dainyor 52 46 43 74 186 587 1107 1083 494 167 73 63 Chitra, Chitral 80 67 74 95 221 486 824 734 382 174 111 80 Gilgit, Gilgit 66 56 43 71 224 706 908 671 358 132 108 87 Shigar, Shigar 18 14 11 39 71 329 737 696 334 94 49 32 Astore, Doyian 28 25 25 60 186 371 389 253 139 66 49 38 Swat, Kalam 14 14 23 50 130 253 249 166 90 38 24 21 Average flowrate per month 66 78 123 221 355 618 859 739 371 149 97 79 Average winter months flow 89 Average summer months flow 473 Alternately, using fossil fuels would cause great harm to the pristine natural environment [7][8][9][10]. Hydrokinetic turbines have the advantage of a smaller footprint than other available renewable options, like solar power, which has a power density of around 0.16-0.25 kW/m 2 [11], and would need clearing up large forest areas. ...
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The rise in energy requirements and its shortfall in developing countries have affected socioeconomic life. Communities in remote mountainous regions in Asia are among the most affected by energy deprivation. This study presents the feasibility of an alternate strategy of supplying clean energy to the areas consisting of pristine mountains and forest terrain. Southeast Asia has a much-diversified landscape and varied natural resources, including abundant water resources. The current study is motivated by this abundant supply of streams which provides an excellent environment for run-of-river micro vertical axis water turbines. However, to limit the scope of the study, the rivers and streams flowing in northern areas of Pakistan are taken as the reference. The study proposes a comprehensive answer for supplying low-cost sustainable energy solutions for such remote communities. The suggested solution consists of a preliminary hydrodynamic design using Qblade, further analysis using numerical simulations, and finally, experimental testing in a real-world environment. The results of this study show that the use of microturbines is a very feasible option considering that the power generation density of the microturbine comes out to be approximately 2100 kWh/year/m2, with minimal adverse effects on the environment
... For instance, thermal and nuclear power plants cause substantial avian fatalities notably due to extraction of primary resources, collisions with infrastructures and production of toxic wastes [11]. In addition, the combustion of fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas produces large amounts of fine particles and greenhouse gases, the latter being responsible for climate change, one of the main drivers of biodiversity erosion [9,12]. Renewable energies also have the potential to threaten species and ecosystems and while habitat change represents the main driver [13], other impacts on biodiversity have been reported as well: wind farms, like thermal power plants, may lead to bird and bat fatalities [14] whereas hydroelectricity impede fish migration routes and disrupt riparian communities [15]. ...
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Background: Climate change and the current phase-out of fossil fuel-fired power generation are currently expanding the market of renewable energy and more especially photovoltaic (PV) panels. Contrary to other types of renewable energies, such as wind and hydroelectricity, evidence on the effects of PV panels on biodiversity has been building up only fairly recently. PV panels have been linked to substantial impacts on species and ecosystems, the first and most obvious one being the degradation of natural habitats but they may also lead to mortality of individuals and displacements of populations. Hence, we propose a systematic map aiming to draw a comprehensive panorama of the available knowledge on the effects of photovoltaic and solar thermal (PVST) installations, whatever their scales (i.e. cells, panels, arrays, utility-scale facilities), on terrestrial and semi-aquatic species and natural/semi-natural habitats and ecosystems. This work aims at providing decision-makers with a better understanding of the effects of PVST installations and, therefore, help them further protect biodiversity while also mitigating anthropogenic climate change. Methods: We will follow the collaboration for environmental evidence guidelines and search for relevant peer-reviewed and grey literature in English or French. The search string will combine population (all wild terrestrial and semi-aquatic species-e.g. animals, plants, fungi, microorganisms-as well as natural/semi-natural terrestrial habitats and ecosystems) and exposure/intervention (all technologies of PVST panels at all scales of installations and therefore excluding concentrated solar power) terms. A pre-built test list of relevant articles will be used to assess the compre-hensiveness of the search string. Extracted citations will be screened at title and full-text stages thanks to pre-defined inclusion/exclusion criteria. Accepted citations will then be split into studies and observations, from which relevant metadata (e.g. taxon, exposure/intervention, outcome) will be extracted and their internal validity assessed through a critical appraisal. The database will be accessible alongside a map report which will draw a landscape of eligible studies. By describing studied populations, exposures/interventions, outcomes and internal study validity results, the report will identify potential knowledge clusters and gaps regarding the effects of PVST installations on biodiversity and ecosystems.
... Wind power is also harmful to animal species since it kills a number of birds and bats directly through its wings. This energy source also indirectly harms its surroundings since wind turbines increase temperature and noise levels (Carrete et al., 2009;Sovacool, 2009Sovacool, , 2012Tabassum-Abbasi et al., 2014). Although solar energy is the fastest growing renewable energy source and is perceived to be the least environmentally harmful energy source, it also has its negative implications (Sellami and Loudiyi, 2017). ...
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Renewable energy use and urbanization level do have an impact on the air quality that can be expressed by the CO2 emissions. However, it is not evident whether they positively or negatively influence the environment. The logical thinking suggests that generating energy from renewable energy sources shall benefit the air quality. However, none of the energy sources, even those renewable ones, create zero environmental impact. The same applies to the urbanization level as a theoretical factor that should cause more CO2 emissions. Therefore, the aim of this paper is to assess what is the impact of renewable energy use and urbanization level on the CO2 emissions in Europe from 1995 to 2018. Applying a spatio-temporal approach, the results of this paper indicate that the levels of CO2 emissions and urbanization declined towards the East and rose towards the North, whereas the share of renewable energy use increased towards the North. The values of the share of renewable energy use and urbanization increased over time, while the CO2 emissions level had a faster than linear decrease over the years. The analysis proved that an increase in the share of renewable energy use leads to less CO2 emissions, while an increase in the urbanization level harms the air quality.
... The most negative impact of wind power is fauna collision with the wind turbine, as many researchers have reported (Drewitt and Langston 2006;Sovacool 2012). It was found that birds and bats have high mortality rates from hitting wind turbines (Maftouni 2017). ...
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Renewable energy development is growing rapidly due to vast population growth and the limited availability of fossil fuels in Southeast Asia. Located in a tropical climate and within the Ring of Fire, this region has great potential for a transition toward renewable energy utilization. However, numerous studies have found that renewable energy development has a negative impact on the environment and nature conservation. This article presents a systematic literature review of the impact of renewable energy development on the environmental and nature conservation in Southeast Asia. Based on a review of 132 papers and reports, this article finds that the most reported negative impact of renewable energy development comes from hydropower, biofuel production, and geothermal power plants. Solar and wind power might also have a negative impact, albeit one less reported on than that of the other types of renewable energy. The impact was manifested in environmental pollution, biodiversity loss, habitat fragmentation, and wildlife extinction. Thus, renewable energy as a sustainable development priority faces some challenges. Government action in integrated policymaking will help minimize the impact of renewable energy development.
... Finally, impacts on wildlife have gained importance among the motives for local opposition, mainly because of cases of avifauna mortality [138,313,455,468,489]. However, the perception of these impacts has been minimized, since wind turbines are less noisy than traffic on a highway [264] and the number of dead animals is extremely low in comparison with other common causes [264,433,434]. The lack of social/community level acceptance is often explained in the literature as the result of the "Not In My Backyard" (NIMBY) effect [57,173,358,441], i.e., citizens generally agree with a given project (not necessarily related to energy) only if it is implemented far from their "backyard" [394]. ...
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Efforts to produce sustainability have begun to transform public ideology concerning the manner in which commerce is negotiated and energy is produced. Several innovations have, thus, sought to continually propagate the notion of sustainable philosophy among the social infrastructure. However, despite the positive outlook produced among the global populace, the negative aspects of these innovations appear to only be managed in retrospect; that is, without adequate planning, only after sufficient detriment to monetary gain warrants attentive consideration. Non-scientific entities have a tendency to fund efforts propounded as sustainable endeavors without effectively calculating the long-term effects. As a result, cumulative damage has been wrought to citizens, environment and wildlife as a by-product of unsustainable endeavors.
There is controversy about bird mortality at tailings ponds. Tailings ponds are known to directly cause deaths of birds and other animals in three ways, including oiling, poisoning and suffocation or dehydration/exhaustion. Tailings ponds are part of the industrial process and are used to store mine tailings, which are end-of-the-pipe waste sand products of mining operations. However, these ponds sometimes resemble lakes or wetlands. Their similarity to natural lakes attracts birds seeking roosting sites and foraging opportunities. The inability to differentiate between a natural lake and a tailings pond affects bird survival. Here we review reports on incidents, relevant findings and quantitative estimates of bird mortality from oiling and poisoning at tailings ponds across the world, and add a special focus on two White-naped Cranes Antigone vipio that we tracked. Effects of tailings ponds on bird populations, specifically on endangered or declining species and juveniles/subadults, are discussed, with a particular focus on China. Finally, some suggestions are given on the prevention of bird mortality at tailings ponds, such as light and sound deterrence, and a minimum safe distance between tailings ponds and places where birds congregate, such as migration corridors like rivers or lakes.
This article reviews evidence for the public health impacts of coal across the extraction, processing, use, and waste disposal continuum. Surface coal mining and processing impose public health risks on residential communities through air and water pollution. Burning coal in power plants emits more nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, and heavy metals per unit of energy than any other fuel source and impairs global public health. Coal ash disposal exposes communities to heavy metals and particulate matter waste. Use of coal in domestic households causes public health harm concentrated in developing nations. Across the coal continuum, adverse impacts are disproportionately felt by persons of poor socioeconomic status, contributing to health inequities. Despite efforts to develop renewable energy sources, coal use has not declined on a global scale. Concentrated efforts to eliminate coal as an energy source are imperative to improve public health and avert serious climate change consequences. Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Public Health, Volume 41 is April 1, 2020. Please see for revised estimates.
In the previous section we outlined an argument connecting unsustainable development to human social and ecological justice. In doing so, we provided summaries of several studies whose results support the notion that unsustainable development is differentially distributed across nations, that this differential in unsustainable development is related to the structure of global capitalism and results from the organization of the treadmill of production, and that the organizational structure of capitalism promotes unequal ecological exchange and ecological exploitation in ways that impair the ability of less-developed nations to access and control their own ecological resources. In short, drawing on prior literature, that these conditions, connected to the organization of the capitalist world system, cause social and ecological (in)justice to be unevenly distributed, and have particularly adverse consequences for less-developed nations with respect to equity issues related to access to and the use of ecological resources.
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Biyolojik çeşitliliğin önemli parçası olan kuşlar hem yerel yaşam alanlarında hem de göç esnasında birçok farklı etmen tarafından tehdit edilmektedir. Bu etmenler sebebi ile bazı kuş türlerinin popülasyonları azalırken bazı türlerde küresel ölçekli azalmalar görülmektedir. Bu çalışma ile küresel ölçekli olarak kuşları tehdit eden etmenler derlenmiş ve elde edilen sonuçlar doğrultusunda alınabilecek önlemler hakkında öneriler yapılmıştır. Araştırmalar sonucunda kuşları tehdit eden faktörler doğal düşmanlar, iklim şartları, doğal afetler ve insanlar olarak sıralanmıştır. Bu faktörlerden en tehlikelisinin insan olduğu ve kuşları korumak için insan kaynaklı faktörlerin azaltılmasının en etkili yol olduğu vurgulanmıştır.
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Birds killed by colliding with towers and windows were studied to describe the type and extent of injuries and, more precisely, to suggest the actual cause of death. A total of 502 specimens (247 tower kills, 255 window kills) were dissected, radiographed, and examined. Tower and window collision categories were further subdivided to consider age (subadult versus adult) and weight (<39 g, sparrow-size or smaller, versus > 39 g, cardinal size or larger) differences in injury and differential vulnerability. Injuries were classified as superficial, subdermal, or skeletal fractures. Comparisons of injuries between tower- and window-killed specimens indicate that the consequences of these two types of collisions are similar. Subdermal injuries were more severe in tower kills than in window kills. Subadults experienced more severe subdermal injuries than adult tower and window casualties. Among window kills, larger birds had more severe subdermal injuries than smaller birds. Collision victims may show blood or fluid in the mouth or nose cavities (30-60%), almost all have subdermal intracranial hemorrhaging (98-99%), and most lack any evidence of skeletal fractures (82-91%). Histological examination of the brain of two specimens revealed blood pools in the cerebrum and cerebellum. The extravascular bleeding in and around the brain is probably the actual cause of death in collision fatalities. Treatment to reduce brain edema if administered within 6-8 h shortly after impact can save some strike casualties.
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We used ground surveys to identify breeding habitat for Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus) in the outer Mackenzie Delta, Northwest Territories, and to test the value of high-resolution IKONOS imagery for mapping additional breeding habitat in the Delta. During ground surveys, we found Whimbrel nests (n = 28) in extensive areas of wet-sedge low-centered polygon (LCP) habitat on two islands in the Delta (Taglu and Fish islands) in 2006 and 2007. Supervised classification using spectral analysis of IKONOS imagery successfully identified additional areas of wet-sedge habitat in the region. However, ground surveys to test this classification found that many areas of wet-sedge habitat had dense shrubs, no standing water, and/or lacked polygon structure and did not support breeding Whimbrel. Visual examination of the IKONOS imagery was necessary to determine which areas exhibited LCP structure. Much lower densities of nesting Whimbrel were also found in upland habitats near wetlands. We used habitat maps developed from a combination of methods, to perform scenario analyses to estimate the potential effects of the Mackenzie Gas Project on Whimbrel habitat. Assuming effective complete habitat loss within 20 m, 50 m, or 250 m of any infrastructure or pipeline, the currently proposed pipeline development would result in loss of 8%, 12%, or 30% of existing Whimbrel habitat. If subsidence were to occur, most Whimbrel habitat could become unsuitable. If the facility is developed, follow-up surveys will be required to test these models.
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Collisions of birds with windows were studied by reviewing the literature, collecting data from museums and individuals, monitoring man-made structures, and conducting field experiments. Approximately 25% (225/917) of the avian species in the United States and Canada have been documented striking windows. Sex, age, or residency status have little influence on vulnerability to collision. There is no season, time of day, and almost no weather condition during which birds elude the window hazard. Collisions occur at windows of various sizes, heights, and orientations in urban, suburban, and rural environments. Analyses of experimental results and observations under a multitude of conditions suggest that birds hit windows because they fail to recognize clear or reflective glass panes as barriers. Avian, manmade structural, or environmental features that increase the density of birds near windows can account for strike rates at specific locations. A combination of interacting factors must be considered to explain strike frequency at any particular impact site. The earliest account of a bird hitting a window in North America is by Nuttall (1832:88). He described a Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus) which, in the pursuit of prey, flew through two panes of greenhouse glass only to be stopped by a third. Townsend (1931) described a series of five fatalities of the Yellow-billed Cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus). His paper was the first to suggest that avian vulnerability to windows may be more marked in some species than in others and that specific windows claim a succession of victims. He termed the victims "tragedies" and apparently regarded them as rare, self-destroying incompetents. Picture windows were relatively uncommon through the end of World War II, and there was little reason for concern about their threat to birds. In the postwar period, a building boom stimulated the rapid expansion of the sheet glass industry, and large glass windows were incorporated into the designs of new and remodeled structures. Today, it is not uncommon to find modern buildings that are entirely surfaced with glass. I found 88 papers reporting bird-window collisions, primarily after the mid-1940s (Klein 1979). They document strikes in North America, South America, West Indies, Europe, and Africa, and, with few exceptions are cited in annotated bibliographies on man-caused mortality to birds (Weir 1976, Avery et al. 1980). However, most textbooks and encyclopedia treatments of ornithology present little, if any, description of the fatal hazards that windows pose to birds. The sheet glass industry and its commercial allies appear to be unaware of the problem. On the other hand, I found avian fatalities resulting from window strikes to be common knowledge among the general public. Birds have been reported to strike two general types of windows as classified according to their visual effects on the human eye. These are transparent windows which appear invisible and reflective windows which mirror the facing outside habitat. Two general types of collisions have been described (Wallace and Mahan 1975:456) and both reveal the ability of glass to misinform and misguide at least some birds. One primarily involves birds such as Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) that commonly flutter against picture windows and harmlessly peck the glass during the spring and summer. These birds seldom, if ever, stun or injure themselves or shatter the glass and usually are males defending their territories against their reflected images. In the second type, birds fly into transparent or reflective windows as if unaware of their presence. These collisions often have fatal consequences, and are the subject of this paper. In this paper my objectives are: (1) to propose an explanation for why birds collide with windows, (2) to describe and analyze species, environmental and manmade structural characteristics associated with bird-window collisions in the United States and Canada, and (3) to suggest how these select characteristics account for the differential frequency with which birds strike windows in various man-made structures.
Natural gas extraction and field development are pervasive throughout the sagebrush steppe of Wyoming. We conducted this study to determine how roads associated with natural gas extraction affect the distribution of breeding songbirds in sagebrush steppe habitat. The study encompassed dirt and paved roads in the Jonah Field II and Pinedale Anticline Project Area in Sublette County, Wyoming. Sites are dominated by Wyoming big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata), and common passerines include sagebrush obligates: Brewer's Sparrows (Spizella breweri), Sage Sparrows (Amphispiza belli), and Sage Thrashers (Oreoscoptes montanus); and non-obligates: Horned Larks (Eremophila alpestris) and Vesper Sparrows (Pooecetes gramineus). Species relative density was measured using 50-m-radius point counts during spring 1999 and 2000. Four roads with low traffic volumes (700-10 vehicles per day) were surveyed and point counts were centered at variable distances from the road surface such that relative densities were measured 0-600 m from the road's edge. Density of sagebrush obligates, particularly Brewer's and Sage Sparrow, was reduced by 39%-60% within a 100-m buffer around dirt roads with low traffic volumes (700-10 vehicles per day). While a 39%-60% reduction in sagebrush obligates within 100 m of a single road may not be biologically significant, the density of roads created during natural gas development and extraction compounds the effect, and the area of impact can be substantial. Traffic volume alone may not sufficiently explain observed declines adjacent to roads, and sagebrush obligates may also be responding to edge effects, habitat fragmentation, and increases in other passerine species along road corridors. Therefore, declines may persist after traffic associated with extraction subsides and perhaps until roads are fully reclaimed.