Wind industry advert sparks anger

2012-09-14 12:45

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

  • Goodstuff - 2012-09-14 13:07

    Would not put it past the Chinese, Arabs or Amrican oil firms to put in this kind of propoganda.

      denis.dendrinos - 2012-09-14 13:12

      yup = shell - cos fracking is MUCH better right?

      dewalds3 - 2012-09-14 13:26

      And every single government in the world charges handsome levy's on fossil fuels..

      maya.kali.14 - 2012-09-16 11:07

      And every single government implementing wind energy on massive scale is spending the people their tax money on this useless, overly expensive, subsidy addictive, unreliable energy source. (Follow the Money) For illustration, Germany, one of the world leaders in wind energy, needs to build 25 new coal power stations to save its industry from leaving the country to places with more affordable and reliable energy. In Germany and the UK, more and more people are not able to pay their electricity bill. Tell me, how will an emerging country ever be able to carry the costs of this energy source? And why are emerging countries not allowed to use their own cheap energy sources to build up their economy the same the Western world has done from mid 18th to 20th century? And do not forget, Africa as a continent, produces only 4% of the total worldwide output of CO2 emissions. We should be very aware of this new form of ‘ism’: eco-imperialism.

      preshen.govender.90 - 2012-09-17 08:15

      Stop complaining it is free KFC

  • dick.etheridge - 2012-09-14 13:26

    Greenpeace rejected the argument...Case Closed, moving on!!!

  • stirrer.stirrer - 2012-09-14 13:37

    LOL!!! Greenpeace has now tied themselves in to Gordian knot :-) They are supposed to hug both the wind turbines AND the birds, but it's a fact that the turbines kill birds, although not nearly as many as claimed by the ad. GreenPeace has to make a choice between renewable energy and wildlife conservation - it would actually be sad if it wasn't so funny!

      ludlowdj - 2012-09-17 12:59

      The fact still remains that conventional dirty power kills more birds and other animals than wind power does.

      maya.kali.14 - 2012-09-18 00:02

      @ludlowdj The fact still remains that conventional dirty power together with nuclear power makes a western life style – and a better life for all- possible. It made the production of your computer or cell phone possible were you typed in this message. So let’s not be holier than the Pope. Wind can never produce the energy needs to support an economy with its mines, production industries, hospitals, agriculture, education, transport and so on. After 20 years of experiment and experience we should be realistic enough to see that wind power has failed to deliver what it promised to do. It did not make one single coal power station close. It did not cut any significance amount CO2 emissions, if any. It did not become subsidy independent and it sent electricity prices to sky-rocked , it creates havoc on the net and it has such considerable negative impact on the environment that we should not be fooled by its smartly marketed ‘green’ label. If we want to create a sustainable world we should also accept that not all once-so-promising solutions work , change course and spent resources on research and applications that will work for the environment, the people and the economy.

  • duncan.ayling.1 - 2012-09-14 14:01

    Just a correction: BirdLife SA and the Endangered Wildlife Trust developed protocols (which the SA Wind Energy Association have endorsed) where wind farm developers do not only do monitoring for a month or two, but for a whole year prior to application for approval.

      maya.kali.14 - 2012-09-16 10:32

      That is true, but sadly enough these are just toothless guidelines because the wind industry can use these voluntarily. If you study the EIA studies done till now, most of these guidelines as well the 2006 WEF siting guidelines set by the Western Cape government are completely being ignored. Read more about toothless guidelines:

      maya.kali.14 - 2012-09-16 10:36

      Investec and BirdLife South Africa partner in pursuit of responsible renewable energy development. Investec proudly presents on its website: “We are one of the leading providers of subordinated and mezzanine finance to renewable energy projects". I do not need to say anything more..... More about conflict of interest:

      andre.vanderspuy.75 - 2012-09-16 22:12

      Mr Ayling Your RES Spitskop Wind Farm in the Eastern Cape severely threatens my farm in which I made a substantial (by my stds) investment because of the area's impressively high biophysical and ecological attributes and aesthetic beauty. My intention is to use my farm for sustainable land uses which genuinely benefit the environment and local community. Your wind farm is of massive extent at approx 264 squ. km and 200 turbines. The area in which you intend to site your wind farm constitutes about 70% (!!!) of Critical Biodiversity Area 2 status ("CBA 2 are areas that should be kept in a near natural state so as to support biodiversity persistence. Only biodiversity friendly forms of land use are recommended for these areas").I support sustainable and genuine renewable energy initiatives - RES's Spitskop Wind Farm is not this! As a conservation biologist and environmental practioner myself, your environmental consultant's EIA process and reports are quite possibly the most biased and misleading that I have ever had the displeasure of reviewing in my 18 years of practice. Already your EIA has been forced to begin again because of its illegal status of which you and your consultant were well aware (i.e.the consultant who quickly moved to shut me up in your so-called public meeting when I stated so). For your advice, your EIA remains variously fatally flawed. (Greenpeace take note!). The greatest hypocrisy is you're SAWEA "Environmental Spokesman"!!! A van der Spuy

      andre.vanderspuy.75 - 2012-09-16 22:22

      Just a correction to you: As you well know, the guidelines state that this monitoring should be prior to "construction", not "approval" as you state. This is a very significant difference in terms of purposes of EIA (and best practice). The guidelines, in current form, permit environmental authorisation to be granted BEFORE the results of the monitoring are known i.e BEFORE assessment of the impact on birds can be ascertained with any confidence. This is undoubtably a compromise of the EIA process brought on under influence of the wind industry.

      duncan.ayling.1 - 2012-09-17 16:27

      Mr van der Spuy, You are very welcome to express your opinions and concerns in the EIA public participation process where they have been, and will continue to be respectfully considered. I, again, extend the offer to meet with us to discuss your concerns. RES are conducting a meticulous and open EIA process following all relevant legislation and instructions from the DEA. We are going beyond simply what is required of us and are voluntarily following best practice bird guidelines which we encourage and promote. The bird guidelines are clear that the 1 year of ‘pre-construction’ monitoring should ideally be completed as part of the EIA and therefore should be submitted as part of the EIA application for approval.

      andre.vanderspuy.75 - 2012-09-19 07:13

      Mr Ayling (RES) What you say sounds fantastic and commendable! Unfortunately the chasm between what you proclaim and RES’s operation on the ground is vast. These are the facts: 1. An EIA public meeting was requested for your second EIA attempt, (per normal & good practice) but was refused. Your consultant advised that I am welcome to meet to discuss my concerns. Such is a typical and revealing “damage control” measure of developers to create the impression of being forthcoming but who wish to avoid the public platform where all might be revealed – so no thanks! My “concerns” are extensively documented so I feel no need to repeat them. HOWEVER, should YOU wish to meet me to air your concerns I am willing to have a minuted meeting. 2. If your Spitskop EIA was indeed "meticulous and open" then it begs the question as to why it was terminated by DEA? RES’s second EIA effort attempted to short-cut the legislated process and has now also run into fundamental problems yet you still claim that RES goes beyond the minimum requirements! 3. The Renewable Energy Systems Spitskop wind farm location is within a highly sensitive environment (Critical Biodiversity Area 2). It will result in MASSIVE environmental damage to the biophysical environment, local communities and to the many established nature-orientated game farms and reserves in the area. It is an irresponsible wind farm development. More honesty and less "green-washing", would serve your industry better.

  • samantha.ralstonpaton - 2012-09-14 14:44

    Wind energy is not always good for birds, but international experience has shown that the negative impacts can be reduced significantly with the correct placement of these facilities. BirdLife South Africa and its partner, the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) have been working closely with bird specialists and the wind energy industry to help ensure that wind energy does not have significant negative impacts on birds in South Africa. Adequate monitoring and impact assessment are crucial, especially as we have a lot to learn about how our local species will respond. As Duncan pointed out in the comments, BirdLife South Africa and the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s best practice guidelines for monitoring and assessing impacts of wind energy on birds suggest monitoring be done over at least four seasons. For more information see: The sad reality is the energy of any form will have some negative impacts. Reducing consumption is probably the only truly green solution.

      lara.vanrooyen.1 - 2012-09-15 06:55

      And that means reducing human numbers. And then human rights activists are up in arms. Sheesh! You just can't win.

      maya.kali.14 - 2012-09-16 11:28

      The most beautiful guidelines are completely useless as long as the industry can choose to use them voluntarily. Also the financial involvement of one of SA wind energy investors with Birdlife makes it all very muddy: “Investec Capital Markets and BirdLife South Africa announce the appointment of a Birds and Renewable Energy Manager to actively participate in the renewable energy sector, with effect from 1 August 2012. This unique position is being sponsored by Investec Capital Markets and will have the overarching focus of minimising the impact of renewable energy developments on birds and their habitats.” Read more:

  • andrew.arnesen - 2012-09-14 14:50

    And how many thousands of SPECIES are wiped into extinction by using non-renewable energy? To use the number of birds killed each year as an argument against renewable energy is pathetic and particularly disingenuous- wonder who we can thank for this masterpiece of double-speak???

      timothy.tanzer.5 - 2012-09-14 15:21

      Wind turbines will never replace or reduce the use of fossil fuel installations as they do not have the capacity. So your argument is that just because fossil fuel installations do more... it is okay for wind turbines to do it? Even if 100,000 wind turbines were built and installed, they would not be able to replace the use of coal power stations or nuclear power stations. I read the advert in the paper... it is NOT against renewable energy, it is against wind turbines as a form of renewable energy. I did a search and there is a lot of information about this all over the internet... one example would be this site, which is a compelling read..

      maya.kali.14 - 2012-09-16 11:41

      We always hear numbers, looots of it. But very few words are spent on the details. Have you ever had a Blue Crane or Verreaux eagle bouncing of your car’s windshield or house window? “It is these, the most vulnerable birds are also the most valuable: Eagles, hawks, waterfowl including swans, cranes, herons, egrets and other large-bodied birds which have a tough time changing course at the last moment. Those “big bird” species are the Fort Knox of the avian world. And, unfortunately, there are far too many sliced-and-diced examples from all parts of the globe to demonstrate how those birds are faring against IWTs.” Read more:

  • maya.kali.14 - 2012-09-16 10:16

    "What we are seeing today is something akin to the gold rush of the 19th Century, but on a much, much greater scale. South Africa has no greater environmental challenge in its history than is posed by these cumulative wind farm proposals.” Professor Phil Hockey, the Director of the Percy Fitzpatrick Institute of African Ornithology. For more about impact of Industrial wind farms on SA Bird and wild life:

  • maya.kali.14 - 2012-09-16 10:24

    Always follow the money. Inevitably it will lead to an oak-paneled door and behind it will be Mr Big. Don't be fooled by the Wolfe in sheep clothes. more:

  • ludlowdj - 2012-09-17 12:57

    Of course they don't go so far as pointing the finger at the government and big business which will be the first casualties of any move to renewable energy, and who are set to loose millions in income from conventional energy supplies. Lets not even look at the massive (in some cases over 1000% markup that is being put on renewable energy products being sold locally. I still maintain the only way forard is for the individual to cut suppliers out completely and to install a mix of solar and wind power generators at residential level, from there closed networks can be established. The truth however is that government will immediately find a way to charge you for that as well as they have already done in respect of gray and recycled water, including the reuse of water and the collection of rainwater, all of which attract extra charges in respect of sewerage costs.

  • johnny.debeer - 2012-11-22 13:55

    Easy when you don’t live in the areas designated for these projects. Welcome to higher surrounding temperatures caused by wind turbine interference of wind currents. What further impact can we expect in low rainfall areas. The decline and loss of bat and bird populations. Audible disturbing noise levels for over 2 km in radius. Inefficient, unreliable, un-storable power source mainly produced in off peak periods and with no control over availability of supply. An Ugly eyesore and at 120m a complete and permanent disfigurement of the skyline. More power lines dotting the skyline which is conveniently not included in the footprint statistics, never mind the carbon footprint required to manufacture these so called green products. An expensive con, that cannot be kept operational without huge government subsidies which the tax payer will forever be burdened with. More opportunity for officials and businessman to flees the tax payer on a forever and ongoing never ending cycle! The technology has yet to achieve the idealistic goals we hope to achieve. Wind technology is not the route we should be focusing on at this stage of its development. We need cheap, reliable power to get this economy going. We cannot afford the luxury of being saddled with expensive power which further increases its potential cost with an unreliable un-predictable energy source that cannot be controlled or be relied upon when its actually needed. ITS OFF WHEN ITS OFF, NO WIND, NO POWER!!!!

  • Barry Seymour - 2013-07-21 03:33

    Those against "clean" power generation should drop the propaganda and take a proper gander at it.

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