We’ve completed construction of a new 100m windmill at the RSPB headquarters in Sandy, Bedfordshire. It will generate half of the RSPB’s total electricity needs across all of their 127 UK locations and will be bird and bat friendly – watch the video to find out how we did it.
In early 2016, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) installed a large wind turbine at their headquarters in central England. The 100-meter (330-foot) tall turbine was installed at the Society’s headquarters in Sandy midway between Milton Keynes and Cambridge.
The 800 kW Enercon turbine began operation in February and is expected to generate 1.85 million kWh annually, about half the electricity consumed by the 127 RSPB facilities across Great Britain.
The RSPB is the British equivalent of the National Audubon Society in the United States or the Ligue de Protection des Oiseaux in France.
The project is a partnership between the RSPB and Ecotricity, a private developer of distributed wind turbines.
I’ve written about the RSPB’s plans previously (see Britain's Royal Society for the Protection of Birds Plans Large Wind Turbine) and have included a passage on the project in my new book Wind Energy for the Rest of Us. An article by Craig Morris tipped me off that the turbine was finally slated for installation.
The society’s move stands out in a sea of timidity, hype, and greenwashing from groups in North America.
The RSPB and the Audubon Society have publicly made the case that they support the responsible use of wind energy to address climate change and reduce pollution and habitat destruction from fossil fuels. The RSPB specifically notes that they have objected to only 4.5 percent of the 1,500 planning applications for wind projects in Britain they have reviewed.
In contrast to the RSPB’s courageous stand in support of wind energy, North American environmental groups have been content with building renovations (Audubon), and the installation of token wind turbines (Nature Conservancy) and some modest solar demonstration projects.
The RSPB’s Enercon is not a token turbine. It is not a “demonstration” project. The 53-meter (175-foot) diameter wind turbine is a modern machine that could be found installed singly and in small clusters by farmers in Germany or in wind farms by commercial wind developers throughout the British Isles.
Ecotricity operates several of the German wind turbines in prominent locations. For example, they installed an Enercon wind turbine like that at the RSPB’s headquarters alongside the M4 motorway from London to Bristol.
I am not aware of any examples in North America of the Audubon Society or any other environmental group installing an equivalent size wind turbine.
In the early 1980s, Bill Hopwood and I installed a pioneering 1 kW Bergey at Beechwood Farms Nature Reserve near Pittsburgh for the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania. The wind turbine was joined by a 1.5 kW PV array. Unfortunately, the turbine has been out of service since 2002 and there are no plans to repair it.
In 2007, the Audubon Center of the North Woods installed a 2.4 kW Skystream at its Crosby Lodge between Minneapolis and Duluth, Minnesota. That demonstration turbine is still operating.
Both the Bergey and the Skystream are real wind turbines, but they are quite small by today’s standards.
Some North American organizations have been content to install wind devices of questionable provenance. In the spring of 2012, for example, the Nature Conservancy in Indianapolis, Indiana installed three poorly sited Vertical-Axis Wind Turbines on short towers in front of their recently renovated office building. In a fit of hyperbole the Nature Conservancy called these turbines the "crown jewel" of its new state headquarters. (See Another Poorly Sited Hoosier VAWT Vying for Worst Turbine Install.)
The Nature Conservancy "wind turbines" (they are more correctly identified as lawn ornaments) will produce — at best — tens of kilowatt-hours annually, if they produce any net energy over and above that consumed by their inverters.
At a time of planetary emergency, such “greenwashing” by the Nature Conservancy and others — at a minimum — does little to further the use of renewable energy. At worst, it serves critics who continue to argue that wind turbines don’t work. Such “demonstrations” also feed despair that we can never scale up renewable energy fast enough to make a difference.
The often naïve and poorly informed positions of groups such as the Nature Conservancy in Indiana differs strikingly with the sophistication of the RSPB's proposal and its accompanying defense of why it is taking such action. Watching this video of project, Constructing a wildlife friendly windmill for the RSPB, it’s hard not to be inspired.
Martin Harper, RSPB’s director of conservation, said in justification for the project, “Climate change is the single biggest threat to our planet. This is about our birds and wildlife as well as our way of life.”
In his companion statement at the dedication of the turbine, Dale Vince, Ecotricity’s founder, sounds like an American revolutionary, or as they say in Germany, an electricity rebel. “Green energy puts power in the hands of the people — the technology allows us to democratize and decentralize energy in Britain,” he said.
“Using wind energy is a proven and reliable technology that reduces greenhouse gas emissions. But turbines must be located where they are sympathetic to our natural environment,” said RSPB’s Harper. “I hope that our wind turbine will inspire others to take action and join us in using renewable energy to power our country.”
Indeed, let’s hope RSPB’s bold move stirs environmental groups in North America to drop the greenwashing and tokenism that has so characterized their renewables efforts so far.
This article was originally published by Wind-works.org and was republished with permission.
A proposed wind turbine installation near Camp Perry in Northwestern Ohio has recently been halted by environmental groups that turn out to have connections to the oil, gas and tourism industries. Bird lovers have been tricked into being their supporters! It now appears that a wind turbine erected at The Lake Erie Business Park is being targeted. To quote from one media release, "The Lake Erie shoreline in Ohio is among the worst possible locations for a wind power project."
The structure and manipulative tactics of these groups should be exposed. It is those with vested interests in the outdated, bird-killing, planet-destroying fuels of the past who are leading the opposition to our move towards a more environmentally friendly future. The wind that blows across the Great Lakes is a plentiful, free, clean, and jobs-creating source of power. We should begin using it as soon as possible.
It is disturbing that people purporting to be bird lovers have managed to prevent the Ohio Air National Guard from erecting a wind turbine close to the shore of Lake Erie. The Black Swamp Bird Observatory (BSBO), as well as the American Bird Conservancy (ABC), claim that migrating species might fly into the tower or blades. Apparently these groups are unaware of the Danish radar studies, done about a decade ago, showing that birds successfully navigate around or between wind installations, and are very rarely killed or injured.
In addition, the ABC and the BSBO don't point to the actual dangers posed by the skyscrapers of Toledo that these same migrating birds will also be flying through. This is in spite of authoritative U.S. data confirming that by far the most deadly cause of accidental bird death (58 percent of it) is as a result of impact with high-rise buildings and glass windows. Ten percent of it is caused by domestic cats, and only 0.01 percent of it is as a result of hitting wind turbines!
Are there perhaps some underlying, and competing interests involved?
The ABC's Vice President and Chief Conservation Officer, Michael Parr, acts as an Advisory Board Member for a conservation fund created by the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, whose family control 97.8 billion barrels of proven oil reserves. Parr wrote in June 2015 about a number of ABC projects that have actually been supported by the Crown Prince's fund. In addition, ABC's Treasurer, V. Richard Eales, is a Director of Range Resources Corporation, an oil and gas exploration and production company that is currently focused on exploiting the vast Marcellus shale deposits in Pennsylvania and Ohio.
There is no doubt that many conservation societies are genuinely working to protect vulnerable wildlife. However, it seems that using such an organization as cover may also be useful as a marketing tool when the main goal is to distract from the continual extraction of fossil fuels.
As for the BSBO, which states that its mission is the conservation of birds, it was completely hilarious to note on its home page this February that it supports Waterfowl Hunting! Well, after all, if they forbade that, then the $37 million that the area has been gaining from local tourism might be negatively impacted.
Hypocrisy is just too gentle a description for such deliberate diversion of attention away from the true origins of our problems. The public is being effectively tricked into disliking our planet-saving sources of energy, and being turned back to using those environment-destroying fossil fuels.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and others have called climate change the number one threat to all wildlife, including birds. Four Republican former heads of the Environmental Protection Agency recently expressed the immediate need to solve climate change, stating, “The costs of inaction are undeniable. The lines of scientific evidence grow only stronger and more numerous. And the window of time remaining to act is growing smaller.”
Generating electricity through wind power is a vital step in solving the problem of climate change. Wind turbines emit no pollution, require no mining or drilling for fuel, use no water, and create no hazardous or radioactive waste. And installed wind power in the U. S. now displaces nearly 100 million metric tons of carbon dioxide a year – which is the equivalent of taking 17 million cars off the road!
The Ohio Air National Guard are helping to lead the way, with their effort to erect a wind turbine at their Camp Perry site near Port Clinton. They are the TRUE environmentalists!
There is a growing sense among the public that life on our planet is being threatened by our careless misuse of its resources.
The most obvious evidence of this misuse is climate change. Unexpected dramatic weather patterns are now being experienced everywhere. Along with rising sea levels, due to the melting of polar ice, these patterns have led to increased flooding of coastal communities. Perhaps more insidious is the growing desertification of large continental areas. This is accompanied by a rapid reduction in fresh water supply, essential for food production, in neighboring agricultural regions.
Specifically, it is the burning of fossil fuels, with the accompanying release of carbon dioxide, that is to blame. Those fuels powered up the industrial revolution, but their time has come and gone.
We can replant swaths of landscape to absorb some of the carbon dioxide that humans continue to produce, but our overwhelming need is to transition rapidly to carbon-free sources of energy. Our planet is fortunately blessed with just such non-polluting energy resources - the sun and the wind - which can, with relatively small investments, provide us with unlimited supplies of power into the indefinite future.
There is just one thing that might get in the way - namely the financial interest of those with a stake in our outdated sources of energy. These tycoons may be few in number, but they are huge in influence (i.e. money!). They know that wind and solar power installations can be rapidly built, can threaten the profitability of coal, oil and gas, and can subsequently lead to their mines and wells being closed down. They therefore feel a need to create and sow widespread doubt amongst the public, about the effectiveness of the new sources of energy. This goal is being accomplished, extraordinarily successfully, through the exploitation of a completely unexpected resource - human sympathy.
So how did they achieve this?
Years ago, with the erection of the first wind turbines around the United States, the public response that was most discussed was that of visual impact. It is understandable that when large new structures are added to the landscape, some concern may follow. However, it turns out that as people become aware of the usefulness of the new additions, and of their contribution to society's well-being, then acceptance, and even affection, follow. This transition from hostility to appreciation happens, even when a structure is not intended to be functional. An example of this, cited by Paul Gipe in "Wind Power in View", is the evolution of Parisians' attitudes - from negative to positive - to the erection of the Eiffel Tower.
Fossil fuel interests soon realized that it was unlikely that they could delay the erection of wind turbines by encouraging dislike based on visual pollution. So what other factor could they find - or maybe invent - that the public might object to? The unexpected answer is danger to birds and bats.
Most humans care about animals (at least the ones they don't eat). This is particularly true of bird lovers, of which there are millions in the United States. Caring for birds is based on unselfishness, unlike one's feelings about an altered view, or about mechanical noise. By appealing to peoples' concern, and potential guilt, rather than to their self-interest, fossil fuel supporters have brilliantly succeeded in cultivating not just delaying tactics, but outright opposition to the installation of wind turbines. Countless statements in countless documents now describe the danger that wind turbine blades pose to birds. Repetition sparks repetition. More and more extensive and elaborate studies are demanded for every proposed wind project. Many installations have now been put on hold, or simply stopped. All this is in spite of the fact that accidental bird deaths are thousands of times more likely to be due to collision with glass windows than to collision with wind turbines (see linked article). Less obvious, but even more deadly, is the mortal threat that global climate change is already causing directly, to many animals.
All this deception by the fossil-fuel industry would be effective enough, even if they were the only ones responsible for spreading the fear-mongering. However, they have had the invaluable support of some so-called environmental groups, who have provided the key element of credibility to the deceit. How much these self-described conservation groups are unwitting supporters, and how much they are actual allies, of the anti-wind power effort, has yet to be decided. Some of them have simply helped to spread doubts about the sites of many wind projects, while others have actually been the leaders in halting proposed wind installations (see linked article). Some unrelated environmental organizations then highlight these stories in their publications, and inadvertently spread the lies even further.
It is vital that we all become aware of this massive deception. We should realize that birds are capable of navigating around or between the slowly rotating blades of large wind turbines, and are in far, far greater danger when they fly near our towns and cities.
If we allow ourselves to be deceived by the fossil-fuel industry and their fabricated worries about birds, then we will be refusing to look the future squarely in the face. We must end our addiction to fossil fuels, and work to establish clean, renewable alternatives.
The birds and bats will thank us.
This article is a Truthout original.