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« Jo Nova on Richard Black | Main | Uncertain uncertainty »

When do windfarms work?

Readers here are familiar with the idea that wind turbines do not generate electricity when the wind doesn't blow and it is also now widely understood that they have to be switched off when the wind blows too hard as well, either because the grid can't take the surges or because it's dangerous to have the turbine spin too fast.

The latest news from the USA is that some windfarms may now have to be switched off at night.

Night operation of the windmills in the North Allegheny Windpower Project has been halted following discovery of a dead Indiana bat under one of the turbines, an official with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Monday.

The finding marks only the second location where an Indiana bat has been found dead under a wind turbine. Two Indiana bats were found under turbines in the Mid-west, said Clint Riley, supervisor for Fish and Wildlife’s Pennsylvania field office.

“While finding the dead bat is not good news for any of us, it does show the monitoring works,” Riley said from his State College office.

Of course, the story concerns a particular species of bat in the US, but it's interesting to consider the implications for other parts of the world. According to this document:

...throughout Europe high-flying bat species are most frequently killed and most fatalaties are of the Nyctalus and Pipistrellus spp.

These two subspecies are both found here in the UK, where they are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, along with all other kinds of bat. The legislation makes it a crime to:

  1. Deliberately capture, injure or kill a bat
  2. Intentionally or recklessly disturb a bat in its roost or deliberately disturb a group of bats

It is interesting to wonder if building a windfarm, in the full knowledge that it will kill bats, counts as "deliberate". No doubt there are legal precedents here. If it does then no doubt windfarms across the UK will be closing down at dusk, at least during the warmer months of the year.

Oh well, at least solar power stations keep working at night.

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  • Response
    I dislike windmills because they are inefficient, destabilise the grid and put up my electricity bills. That I think, should be enough to stop building the things. That they kill bats and birds is not something that we should making too much of a fuss about. Buses, aircraft, and just about ...

Reader Comments (57)

Are you disillusioned by rising electricity prices, over dependence on the "green" dream [especially uneconomical and inefficient wind farms] and the destruction of our countryside then please register your objection to the Government on

or by GOOGLING "E-PETITION 22958" and following the link.

Please pass this message on to Councillors, members of your community and anyone else you know to persuade them to sign up too. If you are really concerned about wind turbines please write a letter promoting this petition to your local Newsletter and to the Editors of your local newspapers.

Mar 14, 2012 at 8:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Ramsbotham

Some wind turbines are also switched off around dusk and dawn to prevent flicker/strobe effects. They become increasingly less useful by the day.

Mar 14, 2012 at 8:48 AM | Unregistered CommenterJonathan Drake

@ Bish
"It is interesting to wonder if building a windfarm, in the full knowledge that it will kill bats, counts as "deliberate".

Perhaps local planning authorities should be reminded that, until the law on killing birds and bats changes, ‘Wilful Blindness’ is no defence and that by granting permissions they are ‘Jointly and Severally’ liable with the turbine builder/operator and land owners.

Mar 14, 2012 at 8:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterAnoneumouse

Since they kill birds during the day, it's hard to see when they can safely be used.

Strange that it's taken until now for damage to protected species to be taken seriously - I strongly suspect that the RSPB (who seem only really interested in wading birds) have been nobbled.

Mar 14, 2012 at 8:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

I dare say that the vibrations/low frequency sound that they transmit must be hell for earthworms and moles.

Mar 14, 2012 at 8:56 AM | Unregistered Commenterdearieme

James P

The RSPB did not object to the Glen Devon windfarm, despite the proximity of its Vane Farm reserve.

Mar 14, 2012 at 9:05 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

"I strongly suspect that the RSPB (who seem only really interested in wading birds) have been nobbled."
James P

I do remember an episode of QI where Stephen Fry read out an emphatic, jaw-dropping, quote from the RSPB that wind turbines had not killed any birds at all.

Mar 14, 2012 at 9:05 AM | Unregistered Commenterartwest

James P:
I strongly suspect that the RSPB (who seem only really interested in wading birds) have been nobbled.

An RSPB marketing deal whereby it sold members and supporters "green" electricity supplied by Scottish and Southern Electricity and earned commission thereon ran for the best part of ten years before finally closing in (IIRC) March last year. Its leadership didn't need any nobbling; it has actively campaigned for wind power for years and played as much part in foisting this crap on us as any other body in the eco-lobby.

Mar 14, 2012 at 9:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterDaveB

In the UK, the protection of bats from being killed by wind turbines is given more importance than is protecting local residents from the noise impacts upon sleeplessness and other consequential ill health effects.

dearime: I understand through the grapevine that the recently opened Fullabrook wind farm in Devon is having all sorts of effects on the wildlife and domestic animals. The turbines are fixed to the bedrock and the infrasound is apparently travelling a long way.

See also

And this heart-rending story

Mar 14, 2012 at 9:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

The men hired to clear up dead birds each day will be glad they didn't get put on the nightshifts. There's some more green jobs gone.

Mar 14, 2012 at 9:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Shade

It's what you get if you allow sandal wearing vegans to decide your power generation policies. Give me chaps with leather patches on their Harris Tweed jackets sucking pensively on their briars any day.

Mar 14, 2012 at 9:39 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

I feel a campaign coming on here that will cause alot of embarrassment to the Greens/the corrupt and just maybe a judicial review of windmills.

We have evidence that windmills kill birds and bats
Many species of birds and bats have statutory protection
We have precedent (in America)
We know that developers, planners etc. act in the knowledge that killing of birds and bats is inevitable.

I think that the first thing we should do is to conduct a survey and set up a database of such incidents, ideally one for each windmill farm.
Select a particularly egregious case- the Glen Devon windfarm (proximity to Vane Farm reserve) looks promising.

Send said evidence to the RSPB and invite them to do their duty.
If they decline then I invite everyone on this blog to write to the Press, their MP, the Governors and Directors of the RSPB to justify their position.

Who is on for this?

Anyone live close enough to Glen Devon to take some nice pictures of avian death and destruction before the evidence is "swept under the carpet"?

I am serious about this- and once I get the bit between my teeth I will go all the way. As CRU and the ICO know to their cost.

Mar 14, 2012 at 10:25 AM | Unregistered CommenterKon Dealer

This is beyond parody!
I just "googled" Glen Devon energy to find out where they are.

"Crook of Devon", Kinross KY13.

You couldn't make this up!

Josh, over to you.

Mar 14, 2012 at 10:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterKon Dealer

I have not studied this but merely quickly read your post.

I would not have considered that building and/or operating a windfarm falls within the expression deliberate. Tahter, it is reckless in the sense that there is a complete disregard of a known risk,

However, your citation seems to indicate that recklessness applies only to disturbing bats in their roost and windfarms are not built in the bats' roost and unless the noise emitted from windfarms disturbs the bats in their roost, it is difficult to see that a case on recklessness could be made out.

That said, it has always surprised me that bodies such as the RSPCB support windfarms. If they were true to their cause and interested in protecting birds surely they should campaign against the erection of windfarms.

Mar 14, 2012 at 10:35 AM | Unregistered Commenterrichard verney

It's not all bad news for bats. They do, after all, hibernate in winter.

Mar 14, 2012 at 10:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterBob Nelson

@Kon Dealer

Crook of Devon -twinned with the Thief of Baghdad.

Mar 14, 2012 at 10:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterMessenger

Seems some local school kids don't like minced seagull for school dinners.

Mar 14, 2012 at 11:01 AM | Unregistered Commentersteve

steve - interesting in the clip that you refer to
"In the past few months the nine metre high generator has taken the lives of 14 birds – far higher than the manufacturer’s estimate of one per year."

So, there should be manufacturers' estimates available and we should ask whether these have been updated in line with experience e.g. quoting the case in point. Are there also manufacturers' estimates for bats? Are manufacturers' estimates necessarily recorded during the planning process and if so, are they subsequently verified etc. etc.

Mar 14, 2012 at 11:24 AM | Registered Commentermatthu

It's not all bad news for bats. They do, after all, hibernate in winter.

Yes, indeed they do, and so they produce no energy at all when it is most needed, as extreme cold is often linked to calm conditions.

Oh, did you mean the bats?

Mar 14, 2012 at 11:24 AM | Registered Commenterrickbradford

I dislike windmills because they are inefficient, destabilise the grid and put up my electricity bills. That I think, should be enough to stop building the things. That they kill bats and birds is not something that we should making too much of a fuss about. Buses, aircraft, and just about everything that moves does too. If we ban windmills because of the threat they pose to wildlife then logically there is an equal case to do the same to really important things. Remember, the Green lobby don't actually love animals, they hate humans and anything they can do to screw up our society they will do.

Mar 14, 2012 at 11:25 AM | Unregistered CommenterAndyS

Re: steve

From your link:

We’ve tried so hard to be eco-friendly but now we can’t turn it on.

We can’t get rid of it either because we bought the turbine we had to apply for grants and the grant from the Department of Energy and Climate Change states that it has to stay on site for five years.

What your local school should do is plan to turn the seagull mincer on whenever they are requested to not generate electricity. That way they will get paid compensation for not running it.

Mar 14, 2012 at 11:34 AM | Registered CommenterTerryS

At last those windmills will be allowed to operate between noon and twelve o'clock (am), only.

Mar 14, 2012 at 11:36 AM | Unregistered CommenterjuergenK

Windmills also have to be turned BY the grid during quiet periods as otherwise the main bearing will distort. Currently bearings anyway need replacing roughly every 12 months. In some cases there are backup diesel generators (the Thames array I think is a case in point) on site in addition to using grid power.

Mar 14, 2012 at 11:44 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhilip Foster


I seem to remember quite a smart visitor centre thingie at Vane Farm

Have you popped down there and asked the paid flunkeys why their masters didn't object to the despoilation of Glen Devon?

Mind, with the current reviews of FiTs going on, the bloody thing may be uneconomic because the subsidies have been reduced, before it can be built.......

Mar 14, 2012 at 11:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

Yiu know how Sateliet dishes and Stone Cladding make houses look really ugly

Has any body got any sites where you can post pictures of Ugly Houses with solar panels
Theres a really bad one between Crystal Palace and Norwood and theres anotherone next to the Golf driving range in Elmers End

Mar 14, 2012 at 12:04 PM | Unregistered Commenterjamspid

So the risk of death and injury to bats may shut a windfarm down? A few dead seagulls will shut a school turbine down. What will the first dead or injured child lead to? Here are some relevant reports:
including ''Wind blades fell in school yard
Published: 21/11/2009
Children at an island primary were sent home after a newly-installed wind turbine next to their school collapsed, it emerged yesterday.
Parents of youngsters at the 18-pupil Raasay Primary School were asked to collect their children following the incident on November 13.
The 50ft turbine will “remain out of commission” until an investigation has been carried out.
The 6KW machine was installed at the school earlier this month, but was soon the subject of complaints due to the noise it was making.’'

More on that Portland shut-down here, including o useful link to more background on a crazed eco-community in the area via WUWT:

So, we scare 'em in the classroom with tales of climate doom and the end of the world as we know it, and scare 'em in the playground with dead birds and a fair chance of flying bits of turbine or tower. As AndyS notes above, the greens do indeed hate humanity. And they seem to harbour a special contempt for children.

Mar 14, 2012 at 12:06 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade


"The men hired to clear up dead birds each day"

Do you have chapter and verse on that? It sounds like an avenue worth exploring...

Mar 14, 2012 at 12:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

James P, you might try searching on under-reporting of bird deaths. Here is a relevant extract, with link to follow (emboldening is mine): 'E) - HIGH MORTALITY RATE IN JUVENILE AND ADULT BIRDS: CAUSES OF DEATH IN LESSER SPOTTED EAGLES - Meyburg, B.-U. & C. Meyburg (2009) : ---> LINK

"For the first time on 12.09.2008, an adult male Lesser Spotted Eagle was found dead after collision with a wind turbine."

Read : " for the first time as far as we know ". For people finding dead eagles do not necessarily report them to the authorities. There is a market for eagle feathers, talons and skulls - illegal of course, but the bottom line is that an eagle´s carcass is worth money. Scavengers are another source of statistical inaccuracy, as are windfarm employees. At a wind farm in Aragon (Spain) the remains of 2 vultures have been found in a plastic bag halfway unearthed by scavengers. The hiding of bird carcasses by wind farm employees has been confirmed by SEO/Spanish Birdlife - see (B) above.

The same site also has this assertion from Sweden:
'He later wrote to me as follows: "We have also received reports of areas under wind turbines being "cleaned" from dead birds and bats, again if true (which one might suspect it is) making the statistics very conservative."'

Mar 14, 2012 at 12:29 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

When we was at school we were told

Dont drink, dont smoke, dont do drugs, dont have sex

None of that worked

"Kids your Climage Change Home Work is to write down ways to reduce your Carbon Footprint"
No Telly, No Computor. No XBox .No PS3 No WII .No Fun

Mar 14, 2012 at 12:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamspid

Is what Philip Foster says really true ("Windmills also have to be turned BY the grid during quiet periods") or is this just a myth? If anyone has any reliable sources please post.

Mar 14, 2012 at 1:13 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

Bird kill is a bigger problem for smaller wind turbines. The biggest turbines have blade tips that are 70m above the ground, and most birds fly lower than that. Also the chances of being hit by one of these large blades is reduced as they only sweep through a particular location every few seconds, in contrast to multiple times per second on a small turbine.

This is not to say that wind turbines aren't a waste of money in low wind resource countries like the UK

Mar 14, 2012 at 1:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterRob L

Also on the Wildlife and Countryside Act - am I not right in thinking that any 'equipment' used to kill a bat is liable to 'confiscation'..?
'Right - hand over that wind turbine...'
Furthermore - isn't the penalty for killing protected species (bats) £5000 PER BAT..??
Seems to me that we have a rich vein of objections here to be voiced at any public hearing about a proposed windfarm - and the news that an American wind farm is to be closed down at dusk due to the discovery of a dead Indiana bat should silence any developer stating that 'wind turbines don't kill bats'...
I also like the post above which implies that any councillor 'approving' a windfarm is 'knowingly aiding and abetting' the killing of protected species...!
Seems to me that there could be a whole new service industry opportunity here: 'Windfarm Operators, Landowners and Developers..! Early morning clearance of dead birds of prey and bats - competitive rates....'

Mar 14, 2012 at 1:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid

Justy a point in answer to your headline, Bish:
'When do wind farms work..?'
Well - not over recent days, that's for sure...
Last 24 hours: Wind output 0.4% of electricity demand (c170MW, equates to 4.5% of installed windfarm capacity)..
Anyone bright enough to do the maths in terms of £million/billion per MW..?

Mar 14, 2012 at 1:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid

Bishop Hill wote:

James P
The RSPB did not object to the Glen Devon windfarm, despite the proximity its Vane Farm reserve.
Mar 14, 2012 at 9:05 AM | Registered Commenter Bishop Hill

The RSPB also did not object to the Griffin or Calliachar wind farms in Highland Perthshire. Irrc Griffin was known to encroach on habitat used by at least one pair of merlins, and the Calliachar site encompassed a nest site known to have been used by golden eagles in the not too distant past. Calliachar is on higher moorland, classic habitat for hen harriers, which are in decline in this area. The RSPB refused to give evidence to the public inquiry, despite repeated requests to do so by the Tayside Raptor Group. These birds are all Annex 1, so not just protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, but also by European law. To anyone who attended the inquiry, it was apparent that there had been a stitch-up between the renewables companies, SNH (acting for the Scottish Government) and the RSPB beforehand. I am convinced the deal was that if the Scottish Government dropped or refused the massive windfarm that was proposed on Lewis, then the RSPB would turn a blind eye to what was proposed in Highland Perthshire. Given that the discovery of some capercaillie droppings near a proposed mountainbike trail in the Cairngorms meant that the trail had to be relocated to Laggan 20 miles to the south (for fear of the Scottish Ministers being taken to court in Brussels), I still find it astonishing that the Scottish Government has permitted these wind farms, which in time, I am sure will lead to the death of a number of these Annex 1 raptors.

Mar 14, 2012 at 1:46 PM | Unregistered Commenterlapogus

"When do windfarms work?"

When you are dreaming.

Mar 14, 2012 at 2:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Silver


"The men hired to clear up dead birds each day"

Do you have chapter and verse on that? It sounds like an avenue worth exploring...
Mar 14, 2012 at 12:15 PM |James P

Move forwars to 1 min 56secs and you can watch them at work JP

Now, if only this was shown at every planing meeting, with the whole areas junior schools children sat in the audience.........But I suppose that would be a 10/10 moment on our part!

Mar 14, 2012 at 2:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterPete H

@Mar 14, 2012 at 11:25 AM | AndyS
I am with AndyS on this.

The economic case against wind and the fact that the construction of windfarms does not result in any significant reduction of CO2 is strong enough on its own, without using emotive issues such as bird kill. I cosnider that running with such issues dilutes the message as to how bad windfarms are. I do not consider that it adds to the message.

Let's stick to the science, the futility of wind and the economic madness.

Mar 14, 2012 at 2:02 PM | Unregistered Commenterrichard verney

richard verney

I quite disagree. The bird, bat, and other loss of life caused by these monstrosities is central because they are being sold as GREEN and eco-friendly. We are told that we should pay extra in our electric bills to support these things while in fact they are hypocritically quite the opposite.

Your point about cars, planes and other vehicles kill wild life are really not a congruent argument because nobody sells them as being eco-friendly.

As for the economics of wind mills, you are quite right that that alone should put paid to them, but the emotional issue used to originally sell them, the issue of eco-friendly, should be attacked as well.

Mar 14, 2012 at 2:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

So vultures are killed by turbines, but not necessarily by the blades. The birds can fly into them just because they are very tall and in the way. So the also fly into electricity pylons and cables for the same reason.

In that case the bird loving groups should clamour for the destruction of all tall structures that get in the way of vultures and the needs of any human requirement for power should be overridden.

Mar 14, 2012 at 2:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterSadButMadLad

I'd be interested to know whether the figures for bird/bat deaths decrease over time for any given site. Are some members of a species more likely than others to fly into turbines, boosting kill-rates in early years but eventually resulting in a species selected to avoid wind turbines?

Mar 14, 2012 at 3:36 PM | Unregistered Commenterdave

Bat kills significantly outnumber bird kills by turbines as it is not just impact with the rotating blades that cripples or kills them. Barotrauma, the exploding of their delicate lungs by the pressure waves generated by the blades kills and injures at a much greater distance.

Mar 14, 2012 at 4:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterBetapug


Another paper on bat barotrauma here:

Mar 14, 2012 at 4:48 PM | Registered CommenterDreadnought

Kon Dealer:

"I am serious about this- and once I get the bit between my teeth I will go all the way. As CRU and the ICO know to their cost."

Indeed. Don Keiller showed the way. :D

Mar 14, 2012 at 5:18 PM | Unregistered CommentersHx

Kon Dealer = Don Keiller

Mar 14, 2012 at 9:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

The thing about cables and pylons as opposed to windmills is that they are fixed whereas windmill blades turn some of the time. Resident birds become aware of the location of the pylons at least. I have seen (mainly in France) the cables fitted with silver/white balls of fishing net float size. I don't know if their purpose is increased visibility for passing birds, but if not it probably helps.

The latest generation of windmills are so large that the swept area is huge. The larger the circle the higher the speed of the tips the more chance of catching a bird unawares.

Personally I think it is the small things like bird kill which will cause a backlash. Look at how successful the animal rights campaign against shipping of animals in from aboard for medical research has been. All we need is a similar campaign against windmills.


Mar 14, 2012 at 10:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

Sandy, I agree totally.
That is why I am asking for evidence of such "kills" to collate and send to the RSPB.

I will shame them into action.


Mar 15, 2012 at 9:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterKon Dealer

I find it quite odd that the RSPCA is against Boris Island airport but is perfectly happy for hundreds of windmills to be erected in the Thames estuary.

Mar 15, 2012 at 12:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterJim

When do windfarms work?

It depends on what you think they're actually for.

If you want them to reduce CO2 emissions - then they never work, for reasons we're all familiar with.

If you want them to generate useful electricity - they work occasionally, at vast expense.

But since their real purposes are too impose pointless but highly-visible sacrifices on ordinary people, and to transfer lots of money to the rich, then they work very well all the time!

It's just a matter of working from the right premise...

Mar 15, 2012 at 12:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterAndrew Duffin

While I tend to agree that the economic arguement against windfarms is a potent one, I also think that wildlife habitat is equally important. It is also backed up by various EU Directives which have been transposed into UK law.

see Council Directive 92/43/EEC on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora. There is an ecological network of protected sites, designated as Special Sites of Conservation (SACs) for habitats and Special Protection Areas (SPAs).

I checked out one SAC in my local area and the primary reason for the selection of the site is because of the presence of the Greater Horseshoe bat, Barbastelle, and Bechstein's bat.

Ramsar sites are designated under the International Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat (the Ramsar Convention); there are a total of 148 sites in the UK.

Directive 2009/147/EC is the Birds Directive on the conservation of wild birds and includes the maintenance of the population of all wild bird species across their natural range (Article 2) with the encouragement of various activities to that end (Article 3), SPAs as mentioned above, the establishment of a general scheme of protection for all wild birds (Article 5), (I like this next one) Prohibition of large-scale non-selective means of bird killing (Article 8).

In the UK, the provisions of the Birds Directive are implemented through the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981 (as amended), the Conservation (Natural Habitats etc) Regulations 2010 (as amended), the Offshore Marine Conservation (Natural Habitats etc) Regulations 2007.

It goes on and on, and must therefore be considered as an important matter, not something to be dismissed lightly. Birds and bats are extremely important and a legitimate cause for concern.

I have bats in my garden and love to see them swooping around and I also feed the birds in the garden, but am not a mad twitcher. I just offer this information to say that there is important justification for using bat and bird deaths in the fight against bloody turbines.

Mar 15, 2012 at 2:39 PM | Unregistered Commenterbiddyb

Bo**ocks! It's argument. I hate bad spelling. Reminds me of G W Bush and his "potatoe". It doesn't help one's credibility.

Mar 15, 2012 at 3:33 PM | Unregistered Commenterbiddyb

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