By Jim Wiegand
For those that have the mistaken belief that wind is green, clean, or in some way a noble venture, reality couldn’t be any further from the truth. There is nothing commendable about hiding the slaughter to millions of protected bird and bats each year.
Most of public is unaware of this because at industrial wind farms there is no transparency. With gag orders, high security, and studies being conducted by the industry’s own biologists, the public has no way of really knowing anything. Under these conditions information is filtered and the industry can report what they believe the public will accept.
Rigging Search Area Size
For decades I have been doing research and making astute wildlife observations. I have the expertise to see what others can not and when analyzing this industry’s studies, I see one sided environmental documents.
From my research and analysis I now have several thousand carcass distance records from turbine blade strikes. These records are from the years 1990 -2010 and none were taken from industry studies conducted with grossly undersized search areas. Search areas for these studies ranged from 50-105 meters from towers. The wind turbines I looked at ranged in size from 65 kW up to 1.5 MW.
These carcass distance records are from the Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area, Montezuma Hills Wind Resource Area, Buena Vista wind project, Foote Rim Creek Rim Wind Project, Cedar Ridge Wind Farm, Forward Energy Center, and the Blue Sky Green Field wind project. From these carcass records it can be seen that most carcasses upon impact are launched beyond a turbines blade tip length away from towers. In fact this number is about 60% -70% depending on the study being looked at. This still does not take into consideration that search areas for most of these studies were too small for the size of turbine being studied. Several of the studies even mention this.
The average carcass distance from turbine towers recorded in these studies ranges from about 1 1/2 – 3 times the blade length of these turbines. Many of these turbines were only about 100 feet tall when including blades of about 8.5 meters in length. Hundreds of the other turbines I analyzed were about 300-400 feet at the tip of the rotor sweep.
But the industry has evolved and newer studies do not use larger search areas for their much larger turbines.
For the sake of comparison I will comment on some of the recent mortality studies that have been conducted by Stantec. The Stantec studies are important because in my opinion they represent the worst of the worst that this industry has to offer. In the last few years the average carcass distance reported by Stantec in their mortality studies at Wolfe Island, Kibby Mountain, Laurel Mountain, and Georgia Mountain in the Northeast, is about the same distance that was reported from the smallest 65-100 kw turbines at Altamont. But there are huge differences between the turbines studied by Stantec and these smallest turbines. The turbines they write reports for are 40-50 times larger. They reach 250-350 feet higher into the sky, they have blades that reach out 50 meters or more in all directions, and their deadly blade tip speeds are much faster.
All of these factors are important in mortality studies because they contribute to greater blade impact force, more carcass drift from the higher altitudes, and impact points much further out from turbine towers. In one case the blade tip impact points were as much as 47 meters further away (56 total) from turbine towers. Add into the equation that some of these the turbines are located on ridge lines and the carcasses thrown towards the downward slopes will to drift even further.
Yet every one of these Stantec’s mortality studies defies the Laws of Motion and Gravity because the industry’s own data proves that any carcass hit by a turbine blade has a much better than 50/50 odds or 1 out of 2 chance of this carcass landing at a distance beyond a turbines blade length.
For the hundreds of carcasses reported in the Stantec studies, only a handful have been reported past the turbine blade length and the average carcass distance disclosed is about half the distance of the turbine blade length. The odds of this reported carcass distribution to have actually occurred around these huge turbines is so high that it can not be calculated. In other words the numbers are impossible.
In years to come college math and physics classes will have fun analyzing all this. They can apply different wind speeds, acceleration, and points of impact to the wind turbine carcasses distance equation. The combinations are endless but one thing is certain they will understand that most of the carcasses being smacked with 200 mph blade tip speed will fly beyond a turbine’s blade length.
Below is an image of data taken from a 3 year study showing the carcasses distribution for 505 carcasses found in the Montezuma Wind Resource Area. The turbines are 1.5 MW and the search methodology used search areas of 105 meters from towers. The carcasses distance data was reliable for the point I am making but the study still had severe flaws that underreported mortality estimates. When looking at this data readers will see that I have added some notes.
Rigging the Data
The industry is using many tricks and manipulations to make carcasses disappear from around their turbines. None of this is scientific and I see differences in nearly every study I look at. The changes in their studies are predicated on how much mortality needs to be hidden. The most recent wind industry studies are the most appalling and this is because with the industry’s huge turbines they need far more carcasses to vanish.
From the previous information I have provided it should be quite obvious that the industry studies are unreliable because search areas are far too small. But there is much more. So much more that I can not put everything in this article or even ten articles. I have chosen to expose some of the manipulation of search plots and touch on the manipulation of carcass data.
In the image below it is fairly self-explanatory and easy to understand. The industry instead of using round search areas and thoroughly searching them has come up with a devious method to hide carcass data, the square search plot. It can be any size they choose but generally an area 120 – 160 meters on all sides. It may not even be square and the turbine may or may not be centered in the plot. The square search plot is used to give the illusion of a much bigger search area while avoiding the majority of carcasses expected to land within the designated searchable area around the turbine.
Not only are these square plots far too small, the data collected from these plots is easily manipulated. These plots may be fully searched but in most cases they are not and “proportions of area searched” are developed for the wind industry’s contrived mortality formulas. I have seen proportion of area searched for the furthest point declared at 100 percent as in the Maple Ridge Wind Farm study. But what the report is not putting in the formulas is that they only searched 100 percent of the area out to the furthest corner of the plot, the carcasses, the data, and the mortality from the full the declared annulus was avoided.
In the calculation of the proportion area searched, carcasses found at the furthest points can boost the numbers dramatically. In the image below I show how these carcasses when found and properly calculated can really boost the reported mortality with very small overall search areas.
This information was taken from a mortality study conducted in Wisconsin at the Cedar Ridge wind farm. I took the actual area searched and made corrections for the reported carcasses in relation to the proportion of the area actually searched.
From looking at just the search area data, 18 turbines are killing approximately 1100 birds per year and this does not take into consideration that the search areas should have been 150-175 meters from towers. It also does not taken into consideration searcher efficiency and other factors that boost the mortality numbers. This project has 41 turbines and the actual yearly fatality to birds and bats is many thousands.
For these 18 turbines in 2010 they reported an estimate of 216 bird fatalities.
This study did show that the majority of carcasses land past the turbine blades but how the data collected was processed, hid thousands of birds and bats being killed at this site. They not only used the square search plot ploy but they barely even looked around these turbines. They also discarded important carcasses by labelling them as “incidental”.
In any wind industry study if carcasses are labeled “incidental” it is a major red flag that the study is critically flawed. The word “incidental” is trump card exclusion for wind industry studies. All the carcasses shown in the square plot image are considered incidentals by the industry even though they are finding them dead or crippled on a regular basis.
Honest studies would suggest moving the search areas out to locate and include them in the data.
A high percentage of the raptors found during wind industry studies are dismissed as being incidental. Even the study that produced the data in the first image dismissed golden eagles found as far away as 200 meters because they were found beyond the 105 meter search areas.
Since 2004 Altamont Pass has been excluding dozens of golden eagles from their mortality estimates killed by turbines because they have been placed in the incidental category. How do these most of these dead eagles get placed in the incidental category? Wind personnel go around and pick them up along with other dead raptors ahead of the people doing “standardized surveys”.
An honest survey would never allow any wind personnel to touch a carcass but this takes place at every wind farm.
What I have pointed out is just a taste of what it is like to read through a wind industry study. It is a dreadful journey, but it must be done to save species from what is coming from this industry. The tricks may change from study to study but the end product is still the same, most of the wind turbine mortality is being hidden. For the wind industry there is no standardized research methodology and they make it up as they go along. The only thing I see in wind industry studies that is truly standardized is a very clear pattern of these studies being rigged to hide mortality.
All of this is allowed to take place because the industry has been handed voluntary regulations from the upper levels of our government agencies. It is time for everyone to take note and to start asking the hard questions because these turbines are contributing to species extinction faster than any other source of energy.
Jim Wiegand is an independent wildlife expert with decades of field observations and analytical work. He is vice president of the US region of Save the Eagles International, an organization devoted to researching, protecting and preserving avian species threatened by human encroachment and development.
(Image at top of Page: Golden eagle =Беркут (Aquila chrysaetos) Source=http://www.flickr.com/photos/chuckthephotographer/2391751046/; Author=Chuck Abbe, cc-by-2.0, Courtesy Wikipedia)