Wind farms face 'propaganda'

2012-05-30 09:30

Cape Town - There is a propaganda campaign against wind farms that seeks to portray the facilities as dangerous and a noise nuisance, an industry insider claimed.

"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.

Media around the world have run several stories on the danger to birds posed by wind farm installations.

The Washington Post reported in August 2011 that the US Fish and Wildlife Service was investigating the death of golden eagles near the Pine Tree Wind Farm Project.

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".


"We have been running the Darling wind farm now for the fourth year; there wasn't a single dead bird there. And if you look at the Eskom plant in Klipheuwel, they had one or two sparrows or something, but they were small," said Oelsner.

While some birds are killed near wind turbines, the deaths represent a small number of birds killed by man-made encroachment of the environment.

"Wind turbines represent an insignificant fraction of the total number of bird deaths caused by man-made objects or activities (eg building structures, transmission lines, and keeping domestic cats)," said the Centre of Sustainable Energy in Bristol in its publication, Common Concerns About Wind Power.

Oelsner said that there was little evidence for mass bird deaths because of the Darling wind farm in the Western Cape.

"If I drive in the morning on the roads past Darling wind farm, I find killed birds on the road every day. If you want to ban the wind farms, then we can't have any more cats in the world. We must kill all the cats because they kill most of the birds and they kill them very brutally."

Wind represents a cleaner energy supply for SA as the country braces for electrical prices increases and Oelsner said that because the technology was mature, speedy delivery of power could be guaranteed.

"Wind is the only one you can put a lot of megawatts down in a very short time. Government has realised it and that's why the bid process was introduced and we will be digging foundations by the end of the year, or early next year [2013] and a lot of turbines will go up," he said.

Different approach

Most wind installations are large scale and the Eskom research project at Klipheuwel has turbines with towers as high as a 20-storey building and a blade length of 33m.

Local company Windwatts Wind Turbines has taken a different approach to wind generation with smaller wind and solar stacks that are designed to supply domestic electricity.

The company won a global award for the best renewable energy system for low cost housing.

"We can sort out the energy crisis in the rural areas. With between 1MW to 5MW, you could power up to 5 000 homes," Windwatts Turbines managing director Sean van Horsten told News24 recently.

One of the benefits of renewable energy is that it reduces reliance on fossil fuels to generate electricity.

"And the fact of the matter is that we need to lessen our carbon footprint. We can't forever go on coal: We need to, at some stage, make a decision - and the decision has been made as far as I'm concerned from a knowledge perspective - we need to lessen our carbon footprint," said Ivan Jones, Wind Power Energy Association vice-president.

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  • justin.pretorius - 2012-05-30 10:58

    Big business does not want alternate energy because it affects the bottomline

      dewalds3 - 2012-09-14 13:24

      It's more than that. Who makes the most money (in every single country of the world) from fossil fuels by means of levy's?

  • Amanda - 2012-05-30 12:52

    What's the bet Mr Oelsner stays far away from these wind farms and has shares in wind farms. Sounds like a big business man to me - full of BS and 'caring' not for the environment, but for his pocket. If these people were so worried about the environment they would invest in nuclear which is way more effective and costs less to run. Wind farms are going to end up being a white elephant, just like the SWC stadiums. Sounds good now but is way too ineffective and relies on tax money to keep going. No thanks!

      Jason - 2012-06-03 18:07

      Amanda - YOu have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. I would suggest that you do a little research before shooting your mouth off. Also when researching nuclear energy do so research on uranium mining.

  • ghalied.dollie - 2012-05-30 13:41

    Wind as well as solar power is way to the future. It is clean and sustainable. Lets move forward into the 21st century..

      Alan - 2012-06-03 17:35

      I visited a "small" wind farm outside of Palmerston North, New Zealand. The site contained 55 units, each producing 1.65 GWatts. Each one supplying power to 900 homes. The noise levels were insignificant and one had to stand directly under a tower to hear the noise. NZ power is 75% clean energy.

      robbie.crouch - 2012-06-04 09:47

      Solar yes... wind NO.

      marc.piat - 2012-06-14 05:52

      Alan. you are 100% correct. The noise of these wind turbines is extremely low. Insignificant as you say. In this day and age, where everyone is interested in alternative energy it is important that we brush up on our high school physics especially the math of electricity. Those wind turbines for e.g. would be 1.65MW not 1.65GW. That's = 1650kW. EACH!!! And you are right, that's good for 900 homes each consuming 1.83kw, on average. This country could use a good few thousand of these wind turbines. PV(photovoltaic) produce about 150 watts (max) per square metre. One hectare(10 000m2) under PV panels produces about 1.5MW or 1500kW. Both systems, wind and solar are the way to go. Clean, free energy!!! Forget nuclear, coal, gas(think fracking!) they are all limited fuel sources and dirty and expensive!!! Our nation and it's citizens must all get behind alternative energy and support it for the future of our land and it's children. Electricity is the lifeblood of a modern society. It is the driving force behind job creation, industrial growth, food production, education, health care and the wellbeing of society in general. If every citizen and family had abundant, cheap and clean electricity this country would go forward in leaps and bounds. if we do this we will leave a legacy for our children we can be proud of. Viva, renewable energy, Viva!!!!

  • Zing - 2012-05-30 14:13

    "effects are still poorly quantified" does not mean it didn't happen. Quantify it so we can make a logical decision. Unless we're using magic turbines, I don't believe "there wasn't a single dead bird there" Birds and bats cannot calculate for the movement of the blades. Bats would see the blades if they were standing, but could easily miscalculate it while moving. So birds and bats will die - fact. Does that mean we need to discard the technology? No! But talk to us as if we were adults, and we can make educated assessments; don't automatically overcompensate for the possibility of encountering an environmental zealot. I'm certainly not against wind-, solar- or hydro-energy. Surely fish get killed in a hydro-turbine too? (Maybe it's ok because we can't see it happening.) Wind power has to happen. End of story. I support it. Make it happen!

      Jason - 2012-06-03 18:09

      Fish dont get killed in hydro plants with multiple filters on the penstock

  • inky.pinky.56 - 2012-05-30 14:28

    Diverting the focus onto a few dead birds is hypocrisy in terms of the environment. Wind turbines will require 300 square miles to match the output of one nuclear power station. Environmentalists focus on the noise and now the birds but conveniently ignore the potential environmental disaster posed by the huge amount of real estate required to produce cost effective electricity. Wind turbines are the real threat to the environment but have huge potential for the people who will be paid for the land required.

      Jason - 2012-06-03 18:10

      Inky - how many times i have had to deal with ignorant mindless comments like yours. really please do some research, dont just shoot your mouth off.

  • mohag - 2012-05-30 20:19

    Bats tend to be the worst victims of wind farms... (Their lungs rupture from the pressure differences, when if they do not directly hit the blades.) @Zing: Quantifying the risks is certainly necessary. Wind and solar power is probably the way of the future and building as much as is affordable makes sense... It is quite new technology and might be dependant on the weather. It has its place, but nuclear / natural gas, etc. also have.

  • Robin - 2012-05-31 04:32

    Following Zing et al - I see no comment from Mr Oelsner on noise. Having visited wind farms on the Australian south coast, I found that the turbine noise is penetrating and annoying. This is probably because it is low frequency, which may have long term damage potential to animal life - which includes humans - I have seen no publications on this but have not searched for them. Yes, fish do die in hydropower plants from pressure drop and swim bladder rupture, if they are ingested. Intakes to hydropower plants are usually designed to allow fish to escape from the screens by limiting the flow velocity to around 3m/s.

  • Leon - 2012-06-02 21:57

    There is a different technology with vertical turbines in stead of the standard propeller. This is more efficient, needs less wind and is much safer. It also has a 90% smaller footprint. You can thus get more into the same surface area as these ugly useless good for nothing propellers. We use them in the telecommunications industry and they also survive storms and storm wind much better than propellars.

      julio.costa.714 - 2012-06-04 05:11

      Not true. Vertical axis turbines simply don't last due to the continuous flexing, that's why you never see them working, excepting in a few Youtube videos

  • Vuyo - 2012-06-03 07:54

    What if this article is also propaganda . Has the sound level of these wind turbines been measured , especially at night , let's see the research and then we will judge .

  • Alan - 2012-06-03 17:39

    Support for any clean energy should be given. Wind farms exist all over the Australias and are very efficient. Why is there always the no-sayers in South Africa to advanced technologies? Coal is dirty!

  • djozmo - 2012-06-03 20:55

    They are not noisy, nor are they bird killers. I work in the industry, training in Mechatronics in Germany. I drive daily past windturbines and have to work inside them. The mild swooshing of the blades is noticable only from right below the turbine. Sure perhaps they take up the skyline sumwhat, but id rather have windfarms than coal or nuclear. We MUST look towards the next generations and start leading them in a better direction and give them something perhaps we never had?

  • robbie.crouch - 2012-06-04 09:46

    But they are a blight on the landscape... and they do kill birds...

  • jonathan.aronson.3 - 2012-06-05 17:11

    There is evidence that birds habituate to turbines. They also fly into all sorts of structures, as Hermann rightly mentioned. Birds have flown into my car while I was driving on many occasions. But, 10 times more BATS are killed by wind turbines than birds and bats hardly ever collide with man made structures. Hermann didnt mention ANYTHING about bats and I have personally found a dead bat at the Darling Wind Farm (THATS PROPAGANDA because I have told him directly that I found a dead bat at his farm!)I also found a dead bird there. Thousands and thousands of bats are killed worldwide by wind turbines and, all other impacts aside, turbines are a bat problem more so that a bird problem. Proper long term research at both the Darling and Eskom wind farm will surely reveal many more bat and birds deaths. Bats are essential components of many ecosystems and provide many ecosystem services humans depend on. Im not against wind energy but we need to develop it in a sustainable way that reduces environmental impacts. You cannot totally elimiate the impact but we must reduce it as much as possible.

      maya.kali.14 - 2012-06-18 16:28

      @Jonathan Don't be fooled by just numbers. You cannot compare the death of 200 poached rhinos each year with 200 killed mice. In the EIA studies the wind industry is always throwing around numbers, but is leaving out some very crucial details. See my post down this page. The killings of bats is very worrisome. Bats act as natural pest controls and are be slaughtered by turbines. Their unpopularity makes nobody really cares. They do not have a big "cuddly factor".

  • maya.kali.14 - 2012-06-18 16:11

    Globally millions of birds get killed by human constructions. True. The devil is not in the numbers but in the details. Birds having a high collision risk with wind turbines and related power line infrastructure are mostly the already vulnerable and threatened bird species like big terrestrial birds, raptors and bird of prey. These animals mature and propagate slowly and every individual killed by collision or any habitat destroyed has great impact on their survival changes as a species. When was the last time you hit Blue Crane, Secretarybird or Verreaux’s Eagle while driving on the R27? Please visit for more information.

      jonathan.aronson.3 - 2012-06-19 21:24

      @Maya I am not sure where I am being fooled by just numbers. Do you mean the 10x statistic I mentioned? I agree with a lot of points you make in all your posts. My major point (and frustration) is that exaclty because bats dont have the cute, cuddly factor, becuase they are nocturnal, because nobody really cares about them (well I do and so do others) and because (for whatever reason) they are unpopular, the vast minority of people dont know that wind turbines can pose a huge risk to bat populations. This needs to change and the public needs to be more aware of bats and their importance. I dont want to get into an argument about whether bats or birds are more important or more at risk because they are both equally important to consider when developing a wind farm, and equally important to conserve/protect generally. However, many peole now know that wind farms are bad for birds because birds are hugely popular and in peoples minds(for example among bird-watching communities/clubs of which there are thousands across the globe - compared to probably a much smaller number of bat interest groups). How many people know that bats, in terms of species number, are the second most diverse group of mammals on the planet behind the rodents? In fact, how many people know they are actually mammmals like you and I? Bats also have low reproductive rates and, as you mentioned for birds, any individual killed is worrying. Please visit or for more information.

      maya.kali.14 - 2012-06-20 09:39

      @Jonathan Hi, sorry that I made myself not clear. With "fooled by numbers" I reacted on your comments: "They also fly into all sorts of structures, as Hermann rightly mentioned. Birds have flown into my car while I was driving on many occasions." The wind industry uses always the same rhetoric that more birds get killed by human construction, cars and cats. Showing the numbers killed by turbines compared with the other killings, is in fact then very little. They will never go into detail, what kind of bird species are the most threatened by wind farms. A killed Blue Crane has far more impact on its population that a killed Mossie. Next to that, these already vulnerable and endangered bird species (big terrestrial birds, raptors and birds of prey) are the ones with the highest turbine collision risk. You are absolutely right directing attention to the bats, and more awareness and manpower is needed to protect them. My choice was the bird problem, partly because of its popularity. Making people understand industrial wind farms are not environmental friendly is a 'mission impossible' on its own already. Keep up the good work! Please visit for more information.

  • maya.kali.14 - 2012-06-18 16:12

    I wonder if Hermann Oelsner really checks every day in the early morning and afternoon under and around the four turbines if scavengers have left a part of collided bird to be counted. I wonder as well if he realizes that a test set-up of four turbines (were mostly one of is out operation) is not a reflection of an Industrial Wind Farm of hundred turbines. Not only the collision risk is much higher, the habitat loss for vulnerable species can have great negative impact, especially if one calculates the cumulative effects all wind farms together will have (and the vast land they will occupy). Please visit for more information.

  • maya.kali.14 - 2012-06-18 16:14

    Building turbines on ridges and hill sides, the industry favorable location, is in direct air-space competition with soaring birds that use the same accelerated winds to glide and so saving precious energy. Most birds have a lateral view and do not look forward. Their airspace have been ‘clean’ for millions of years. Big terrestrial birds are not very good acrobats in flight and have not many speeds to choose from. Difficult weather conditions as fog and strong wind increases the change of collision. This all is not rocket science and many studies globally are well documented. It is time that this profit driven industry start learning that massive implementation of something they call “good” can become instead a very bad solution. After having created economic and environmental havoc in Europe and the US they are looking for new markets and abusing the Climate Change fear (before "Global Warming")to make billions of profit from the South African tax payers end energy consumers. Wind energy has failed to deliver what it promised to do. Please people, do your homework and make sure the state’s financial resources will be used for mitigating methods that work. Please visit for more information.

  • mark.anderson.7161 - 2012-09-09 08:23

    Wind farms can cause massive bird mortalities, such as at Tarifa in Spain (Eurasian Griffons) and Altamont Pass in California (Golden Eagles). BirdLife South Africa, which is pro-renewable energy, is working with its partners, government and the wind energy industry to influence where wind farms are located. This has included the development of a bird and wind farm sensitivity map and pre- and post-construction monitoring guidelines. We need to get it right in South Africa, and ensure that wind farms are constructed where mortalities will not take place. See for details.

      david.f.joubert - 2012-09-09 12:55

      Thanks Mark for putting it into perspective. A pity people always argue either the one extreme or the other. It is not wind energy vs no wind energy it is how to objectively find out its costs and benefits, and how ti do it in such a way that it does not endanger species.

  • Juan - 2012-09-09 21:56

    Mr Oelsner it is tru that roads, cats and others kill more than turbines BUT: there are much more roads and cats than turbines so the important question is the relation number of killings/number of cats or birds per km. Secondly, the problem are not the small birds but those endangered. Endangered species are not killed by cats because being much larger (i.e. vultures), they are not rolled by cars (otherwise drivers can die by car collision). And turbines kill more endangered species that other infrastructures. However, you can balance biodiversity protection and wind farms development if you develop the projects on the right way. We are not againts wind farm development but those developers that overlook the conservation criteria.

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