How many birds must die while you pour refrigerated soy milk on your granola?

According to The Province:

More than 300 sea birds, mostly brown pelicans and northern gannets, have been found dead along the U.S. Gulf Coast during the first five weeks of BP’s huge oil spill off Louisiana, wildlife officials reported Monday.

Tragic. Poor birds.

According to another report:

While generating megawatts of electricity, windmills on the Tug Hill Plateau in northern New York are also killing hundreds of bats and birds, according to a recent study.

The consultants’ report for PPM Energy and Horizon Energy identified 123 birds, mostly night migrants, and 326 bats found dead over the course of five months last year beneath 50 wind turbines on the plateau between Lake Ontario and the western Adirondacks.

Those poor birds and bats, done in by some windmills. The article describes 123 birds and 326 bats killed by 50 windmills over 5 months. While the other article explains that about 300 birds killed. This by about 37 million gallons of oil over 5 weeks.

The wind-watch article also mentions that those 50 turbines produce 900,000 megawatt hours per year.

Let’s only consider the number of birds killed.

Oil:
1.7 MWh per barrel of oil x 37,000,000 barrels = 62,900,000 MWh of energy in the oil spill to date
62,900,000 MWh / 300 birds = 209667 MWh per bird killed

Wind:
50 turbines produce 900,000 MWh per year
4.35 weeks/month * 5 months = 21.75 weeks
21.75 weeks / 52 weeks/year = 0.42 years
0.42 years * 900,000 MWh/year = 376442 MWh produced by windmills over 5 month period
376442 MWh / 123 birds = 3061 MWh per bird killed

Oil vs. Wind
209667 MWh per bird killed (oil) / 3061 MWh per bird killed (wind) ~= 68

What does this mean?

In terms of environmental impact measured by one factor (birds killed), windmills are about 68x more efficient at killing birds per unit energy derived. To garner the same amount of energy needed from wind than from oil, we’d have to operate the windmills 68x longer or increase the number of windmills by 68x in order to get the same amount of energy. This means that about 68x more birds will die if we wanted to match the energy we’d get from oil. This would result in 68 * 123 birds = 8425 birds dead compared to the 300 dead from the oil spill for the same amount of energy derived.

There is, of course, one major flaw in the calculation above (besides my wanton disregard for sig figs). We’ve only considered oil spilled in the gulf. Alas, the vast majority (ie. 99.9999%) of oil isn’t spilled. When oil isn’t spilled, its efficiency in killing birds goes way down. Further, the wind energy we consider above is the norm not the exception; this is the rate of bird death during normal operation of wind turbines.

Clearly, when considering the environmental impact of oil by showing dead oil slicked birds on cable news, oil actually isn’t comparatively bad. In fact, it is a less efficient killer of birds per unit energy derived.

The champ?

And in Canadian politics, the NDP crows about windmills:

and chirps off-shore drilling:

Comments

comments

  • Switchyard O'Taylor

    Show me where I backed oil and I'll apologise… but my arguments on this thread have been against the inefficiency of people like you, despite your attempt at a moral high ground.

    I've built 6 run of river hydro projects, I'm not really worried about whipping out our green credentials and measuring them because I'm pretty sure I'll win. I've built the offset for 350,000 people for 50 years…. that'll cost you $500 million, or to dedicate your life to green energy…

    I think you need some honest introspection, either that or you might have some sort of personality disorder.
    Regards,
    Jon

  • kenn2

    Either way hording a precious resource (like a prius, there are waiting lists) to feel good about oneself is insanely selfish.

    EVERY vehicle purchase that isn't the most suitable for the intended purpose is a selfish purchase. Muscle cars. Luxury cars. Bavarian dick compensators. SUVs. Motor homes. Every vehicle purchased when the person doesn't need one is a selfish purchase. Not that I'm completely against people doing what they want with their discretionary income… but let's be honest about this.

    Choosing to buy a car with the latest technology for efficiency is pretty low on the selfish scale. Slamming an early adopter of a more efficient technology for being selfish isn't just stupid, it's ridiculous. It's also anti-freedom. Are you against freedom?

    So Kenn2, why attack the arm of an argument rather than the body? Tell me what's good about taking energy efficient technologies and implementing them where they're inefficient?

    Name one serious installation of a windmill field where a wind study and historical review of wind patterns wasn't conducted. You can't. You're just trying to conflate one person's choice of a hybrid, for whatever reason, into “all alternative energy projects are ill-conceived”. Straw man and we're not buying it.

    These are the same greens who were so against run of river in BC that we're having a major dam construction for the first time in 30 years. The same reactionaries who protested nuclear power (because they confused it with nuclear arms) to the point that the US has mostly coal power.

    Uh huh. All greens are the same. Gee if it wasn't for names, you couldn't tell any of us apart. Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, heck every industry has accidents.

    I'm actually in favour of intelligent use of nuclear power, but since the Canadian nuclear development industry has just about been killed off by government, the next generation of reactor technology won't be Canadian.

    It's baffling how hard it is to get through to some people that their selfish selfgreening is actually making the world a worse place. Did you ever read the study that showed that “buying green” made people more selfish?

    Have you maybe read any study that pretty clearly indicates that we're going to run out of fossil fuels, and that maybe, just maybe, if we maybe tried to not use it quite as fast as we currently are, that maybe it will last just a little bit longer?

    It's baffling how 'conservatives' are against conserving.

  • kenn2

    Ah. Personal attacks. Means I've scored a bullseye :^D

    Stick your head back in the oilsand. It's much quieter there.

  • Gayle

    Ha ha ha.

    I suggest you go after people who really do rape, pillage and destroy the environment. Your little “attack” on the fact I have a fuel efficient car and use public transit is just kind of dumb.

    That's all.

  • kenn2

    Also according to the American Bird Conservancy and other sources, domestic cats kill at least one billion birds a year in the United States. yes, one billion.

    Stephen I seem to have missed your post on this much more lethal threat to birds.

    The alleged windmill bird-kill estimate of 275,000 birds a year, could be compensated for if 10,000 of you would simply stop letting your frigging cats go outside.

    BTW cats do not generate any power, though you can sometimes get sparks when you pet them in the winter.

  • http://canadiansense.blogspot.com/ Canadiansense

    Atta boy Keeny,

    thanks for reading the link. The facts are clear regulations and studies exist on the problems with the “giant fans” or bird choppers.

    You can ignore the evidence and facts as they are inconvienent to the socialist agenda.

    As an apologist for the Green fascists you cry over a bird covered in oil and ignore the death as a result of your alleged Green agenda.

    Socialists decry HST is bad, GST is good and let's raise it. Socialists support a Carbon Tax, large corporations, unions, special interest groups will get an exemption. (They did in Europe)

    Are you denying reality and the track record in Europe?

  • kenn2

    I read your silly 'bird' link. It was conveniently free of any links to these European studies or track record on windmills you're raving about. I don't see the Europeans racing around to tear them down, either.

    Yes, windmills have killed birds and bats. I suspect the people who make the windmills are going to do something about this. Don't you?

    In the meantime, American house-cats kill… about 3,600 times as many birds, without generating ANY power. Seems to me if you cared at all about birds, you'd have a look at that.

    You can ignore the evidence and facts as they are inconvienent to the socialist agenda.

    As an apologist for the Green fascists you cry over a bird covered in oil and ignore the death as a result of your alleged Green agenda.

    Socialists decry HST is bad, GST is good and let's raise it. Socialists support a …

    Are you denying reality…

    You're kind of a nut-bar. And not the good kind.

  • http://canadiansense.blogspot.com/ Canadiansense

    You don't see socialists tearing down windmills in Europe as your justification to spend billions on installing more giant fans, jacking up hydro rates by 20% in Ontario!

    Wow kenny are you a paid shill for those energy companies?

    You can't provide a link or proof that use of FOSSIL fuel has gone down in EUROPE after installing thousands of GIANT FANS.

    You can't provide a link or proof the studies by experts that show Unions, large auto companies have NOT fought and won exemptions from the CARBON TAX in Germany.

    Poor Keeny can't use studies, experts demostrating GIANT FANS are cost effective replace to existing Fossil Fuels.

    Did you graduate the Jean Chretien school of logic on proof?

    Keeny & Gayle birds of feather. Favour larger government, more taxes and more state control and ignore the facts about the damage of the Green Agenda.

    On the payroll of those Energy, Green lobbyists, organized crime?

    [“Is it environmentally friendly to produce electricity with wind turbines if there is no-one who can use it? And is it environmentally friendly to burn natural gas in decentralised heat and power plants while dumping the over-production of Danish wind electricity in Norway, where it possibly leads to water being diverted away from the water turbines?”]
    “Wind power in West Denmark. Lessons for the UK,” Vic Mason, October 2005

  • kenn2


    You can't provide a link or proof that use of FOSSIL fuel has gone down in EUROPE after installing thousands of GIANT FANS.

    You can't provide a link or proof the studies by experts that show Unions, large auto companies have NOT fought and won exemptions from the CARBON TAX in Germany.

    Poor Keeny can't use studies, experts demostrating GIANT FANS are cost effective replace to existing Fossil Fuels.

    Not CAN'T… won't.
    CS = chronically senseless.

    - if a country's total energy requirement is X MWh/year, and windmills provide Y MWh, then the remaining energy requirement is X-Y, is it not? This is grade 5 stuff.

    - how did we get onto carbon taxation (and socialists). Can't you stay on topic?

    - NOBODY has ever said that wind generation is currently cost-effective compared to fossil fuels. Thing is, o senseless one, when the fossil fuels are all gone, wind generation will look pretty darn nice. You can't burn stupidity to keep warm, y'know.

    Forgive me about not getting worked up about a 5 year-old observation. What's the Danish situation NOW?


    Did you graduate the Jean Chretien school of logic on proof?

    Keeny & Gayle birds of feather. Favour larger government, more taxes and more state control and ignore the facts about the damage of the Green Agenda.

    On the payroll of those Energy, Green lobbyists, organized crime?

    Hmmm. Any chance of you NOT posting like a spoiled eight-year-old?

  • http://canadiansense.blogspot.com/ Canadiansense

    Did Keeney forget he stated Dion was a Genius and GreenShift will be validated in 20-30 years?

    Keeny wants to have a Carbon Tax (wealth redistribution), deny the Green Agenda is doing harm, can't link studies to prove where it works.

    Conclusion is keeny is a shill for Green Lobby, organized crime or a doffus.

    Definately Not smarter than a fifth grader.

    So ends another lesson.

  • kenn2

    (I can just see you making a sour face and sticking out that cute lil tongue as you say that. Adorable.)

    Keeny wants to have a Carbon Tax (wealth redistribution), deny the Green Agenda is doing harm, can't link studies to prove where it works.

    If you're going to sit at the grown-up's table, honey, you have to use your manners. Like, not making things up, for starters. The insults are a trifle wearing, too.

    You've been going on about alternative energy is a failure, but, neither here nor your sweet lil blog have you posted links. It's wrong to state something as fact but refuse to supply evidence. You somehow think name-calling will suffice.

    The word is spelt “doofus”, honey. Look it up in the mirror.

  • http://canadiansense.blogspot.com/ Canadiansense

    Thanks for pointing out the typo error, best of luck with the coalition of stooges.

    It will be fun watching during the campaign defending their political party subsidies as necessary, GST increase, Carbon Tax to save the planet on the television.

    Don't forget to blame G.W.B and Harper why your party can't hold 30% in popular support since in 2006.

  • kenn2

    Yeah, this is boring.

    Let's discuss… oh, how about Harper's Ministry of Propaganda?

  • east of eden

    Actually, it was somebody who works for the NDP and an extreme left-winger – and is an engineer, BTW. Sorry, Kenn, you lose on this one. Oh, BTW – Here's what I have always done to be economical and, incidentally, good to the environment:

    Never, ever buy bottled water. Never used disposable diapers. Wash in cold water only. Dry my clothes outside. Drive a small car when necessary and plan a circular route when running errands. Wear only cotton fabric – no synthetics. I never buy processed or pre-made food. I use mason jars and never use plastic bags or containers. I have composted since decades before green bins. I buy no canned or packaged food.

    So, Kenn, what were you saying about cleaning up a little? Tell me, do you drink bottled water? Use disposable diapers? Use plastic bags?

  • east of eden

    It's always about you, Gayle. You make it so.

  • kenn2

    If your source for the windmill and hybrid info is an engineer, s/he's not a very good one, or this isn't his/her field, or s/he's misinformed. My background happens to include electrical engineering, among other things. Also, I have eyes – I've seen the increasing number of hybrid vehicles in commercial use, and I've talked to some cab owners. But we don't have to play “he said- she said”… just post some links.

    I applaud your personal commitment to conservation. You might consider getting a wider perspective on the development of alternative energy sources, and the policy options for preparing for the scarcity of easy energy from fossil fuels.

    Nobody, myself included, thinks any of this 'green' strategy is perfect, or competitive wth fossil fuels. But that's not the point. The point is that we have to start finding and developing alternatives to fossil fuels NOW, and we have to make some conservation efforts to not use up the remaining fossil fuel as fast as we currently are. (Especially Canada and the US).

    And, really… if the current windmills and hybrid cars are such failures, why aren't people in Europe and elsewhere stopping their use, and tearing them down/ getting rid of them? Do you think there are enough rich greens to keep the Prius in high demand?

    So, Kenn, what were you saying about cleaning up a little? Tell me, do you drink bottled water? Use disposable diapers? Use plastic bags?

    I'm not a rabid green, but we do what we can. I ride my bike frequently. Our house is mostly insulated to R2000 standards. We don't use an air-conditioner, we installed several ceiling fans. We're in Toronto, so there's added incentive to not use plastic bags. We don't usually buy bottled water except if that's all that's available (eg public events). We currently don't need diapers, but who knows what the future holds?

  • DN

    Steve,

    I’m sympathetic to your point but I’m afraid your numbers are off. The USGS estimates the top-end flow rate at 19,000 bbl or about 800,000 gallons per day. Over the 5-week period you posited (35 days) this comes to about 28,000,000 gallons, not barrels. That’s 28Mx1.7Mwh/42=1,133,333Mwh/300birds=3777Mwh/bird killed. That’s only slightly less lethal than wind turbines at 3061Mwh/bird killed.

    But that’s not really the point. The point is that in normal operation, oil-driven power plants, trucks, trains, cars, ships and what-not simply don’ty kill birds, while wind turbines do. Bird-killing is pretty much an aberration for the oil industry, whereas for the wind power industry, it’s business as usual.

  • Canadiansense

    A consultant’s report covering the period between July and December of 2009 was released recently, indicating that 602 birds and 1,270 bats were killed by the turbines over that stretch. While the report says the numbers of dead birds and bats are similar to other wind farms in North America, Ottawa-based environmental advocacy group Nature Canada says the figures are actually surprisingly large and represent a significant threat to several endangered species

    http://windconcernsontario.wordpress.com/2010/0

  • Mark

    The windmill and solar panel 'green energy' push is a pipe dream. I invite city dwellers down to the Lake Erie shores of Norfolk and Elgin Counties to have a look at the complete eye sores the windmills create. The plan is to put more in Haldimand county (another rural location). Aside from the visual assault they create, there's the known, and unknown impacts they have on wildlife.

    I'm not saying we should keep burning oil and coal. I think that wind and solar energy is a band-aid and is not feasible in the long term. And instead of pumping money into this side show, we should be looking for sustainable clean energy from other sources or techniques (even if they haven't been found or invented yet. The point is, we need to keep looking).

  • kenn2

    Your first sentence is incoherent. What are you trying to say? Oh wait, the rest of the post is pretty much incoherent too, but with the usual CS quota of unsupported allegations. Where I can decipher it, I'll try to respond.

    According to Statistics Canada (2008), Canada is the third-worst polluter, per-capita The average Canadian is responsible for twice the pollution created by the average Briton or European, and 4 times the average Chinese. Canadians are increasing their per-capita pollution faster than any other industrialized country. Yay us…

    Nearly half of our emmission (sic) are from Central Canada including autos. As soon as Ontario-Quebec ban the automobile, heavy manufacturing, resource extraction industry that make up the balance give me a shout.

    Hah. Nice try. Per-capita, the biggest vehicle polluters are rural residents who drive longer distances …in their trucks, not urban dwellers who drive shorter distances and are much more likely to use smaller cars, transit or bike.

    Quote :
    At the provincial level, Saskatchewan was the biggest polluter on a per-capita basis, followed by Alberta, Manitoba and Nova Scotia.

    … however, you can act on your concern re Central Canada & cars – help us lobby for proper funding for public transit. Nationally, there's very little support for public transit, despite Canada having one of the world players in subway and light rail -Bombardier.

    Selling of Carbon Credits ripping off the taxpayer by environental groups, organized crime making billions, double selling Carbon Credits by European countries may not be a problem for the lazy media or the UN.

    … I have no response; I just quoted it for fun. It's so you…

    As a taxpayer those Windmills require massive tax subsidies and artificial higher hydro rates.

    Um, duh. All alternative energy technologies are more expensive than oil. And they're NEW, and are still in development. So, naturally there's a cost. Would you like to pay a little now, so that the alternatives are mature and proven when we need them, or would you like to wait til the oil is actually gone?

  • kenn2

    The point is that in normal operation, oil-driven power plants, trucks, trains, cars, ships and what-not simply don'ty kill birds, while wind turbines do. Bird-killing is pretty much an aberration for the oil industry, whereas for the wind power industry, it's business as usual.

    The number of birds killed by the oil industry is massive, many times more than windmills. Windmills don't have tailing ponds or spills.

    You folks also ignore that wind generation is still evolving, and that refinements will no doubt reduce the bird casualties.

    All the right has to offer are negatives. Ok, what's your plan then?

  • kenn2

    Nobody's stopped looking.

    Until something better comes along, we have to investigate all possibilities, including wind and solar generation.