Wind industry advert sparks anger

2012-09-14 12:45
Environmental organisations have reacted with shock at an advert in the Cape Times newspaper that claims that hundreds of thousands of birds per year are killed by wind turbines. (Peter Dejong, AP)

Environmental organisations have reacted with shock at an advert in the Cape Times newspaper that claims that hundreds of thousands of birds per year are killed by wind turbines. (Peter Dejong, AP)

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Cape Town - Environmental organisations have reacted with shock at an advert in the Cape Times newspaper that claims that hundreds of thousands of birds per year are killed by wind turbines.

The Wind Point advert on Friday claims that up to 270 000 birds in the US are killed by wind turbines annually and calls on South Africans to object to the development of wind energy as a clean energy alternative to coal and nuclear power production.

Greenpeace rejected the argument as unsubstantiated and said that there was a clear agenda against renewable energy.

"It concerns us that there are people who are holding us back from moving toward renewable energy to putting forward 'un-credible' arguments," Ruth Mhlanga climate and energy campaigner for Greenpeace Africa told News24.

She said the environmental impact assessments ensure that South African wind farms are not placed in the migratory paths of birds.


"The building of wind turbines is undertaken after an environmental impact assessment so therefore Greenpeace Africa would encourage people to undertake these assessments so they can make sure that these turbines are not put in migratory paths or in nesting areas."

BirdLife SA said that it contributed toward a series of protocols to ensure the birds were protected before wind farms were sited.

"BirdLife SA and the Endangered Wildlife Trust have developed a protocol where we ask that wind farm developers do not only do monitoring for a day or two, but for a whole month before a wind farm is approved. Most wind developers accept those protocols," said Ernst Retief, regional conservation manager for BirdLife SA

While some birds have been killed by wind farms in the US and Europe, studies have found that low risk of the technology impacting on bird life.

The Journal of Applied Ecology concluded in a 2004 study that wind farms represented a risk to bird mortality, but said the "effects are still poorly quantified".

A CSIR study found that wind farms in SA presented a low risk to birds, but urged continued monitoring.

"As far as collision mortality for birds is concerned, it is predicted that the project will have a negative impact of low significance (with mitigation). This will have to be verified by post-construction monitoring," the study said.

Vested interests

The advert's claims were slammed by wind industry players as misleading.

"In my opinion, that's grossly misleading," said Windwatts Wind Turbines CEO Sean van Horsten.

He suggested that there were vested interests in suppressing wind power technology.

Greenpeace also suggested that there was an agenda behind the message, arguing that people opposed to renewable energy were engaged in activities to discredit the technology.

"So is this them trying to create propaganda and myths around renewable energy to discourage people from renewable energy? Because basically, renewable energy has proven itself: The technology works; it produces sufficient amounts of power, and it has the potential to power the entire South Africa," said Mhlanga.

The wind power industry is aware of a campaign to discredit the technology and has previously indicated that vested interests were on a mission to put wind power in a negative light.

"There is such a propaganda against wind farms, it's unbelievable. If you go into Google and you type 'wind turbines killing birds', you get more than 30 000 to 40 000 entries there," Hermann Oelsner, president of Africa Wind Energy Association told News24 recently.

- Follow Duncan on Twitter
Read more on:    csir  |  greenpeace  |  renewable energy

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