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Duke Energy Wind Farm Bird-Kill: Gort Meets Bambi?

Dec. 15, 2013
Wind farm bird kills are nothing new. But until now no one's pushed prosecution because birds and wind turbines are both protected by environmental advocacy. That creates a dilemma.

It was bound to happen sooner or later. As reported by the Associated Press on 11/23/2013, a major wind farm owner was prosecuted for killing eagles and other birds:

Duke Energy Corp.…" pleaded guilty to killing 14 eagles and 149 other birds at its Top of the World and Campbell Hill wind farms outside Casper, Wyo. All the deaths, which included golden eagles, hawks, blackbirds, wrens and sparrows, occurred from 2009 to 2013."

This was the first enforcement of environmental laws protecting birds against wind energy facilities but it won't be the last, as the article continues:

"The Fish and Wildlife Service is investigating 18 bird-death cases involving wind-power facilities, and about a half-dozen have been referred to the Justice Department."

As expected, there was a consequent statement from at least one environmental group:

"Wind energy is not green if it is killing hundreds of thousands of birds," said George Fenwick, president of the American Bird Conservancy, which supports properly sited wind farms. "The unfortunate reality is that the flagrant violations of the law seen in this case are widespread."

And of course, the American Wind Energy Association had a response:

"No form of energy generation, or human activity for that matter, is completely free of impacts, and wind energy is no exception."

As obvious as that last statement seems, the truth of its content is mostly ignored when it comes to "green energy" sources. We've known for some time that the over-manufacturing of cheap solar panels has led to draining the earth's recoverable supply of precious metals and increases pollutants, including greenhouse gases. See PV Solar Dilemma: Energy Cannibalism Meets Energy Accounting 

And we've known for some time that wind turbines kill birds – there are even several YouTube videos showing the collisions. So what we have here is another case where technology abrasively impacts the environmental ideal. That ideal being a utopia where Bambi and his mother are in no danger from hunters or other humans and their machines.  

But although documented bird kills have gone on for decades, this is the first legal action that's been taken. That's because this time the "machines", the human intrusion on virgin, central plains, are also seen as part of the solution to preserving the earth's environment. 

Several times over the years I've seen the old sci-fi movie, "The Day the Earth Stood Still" (1951) and I'm amazed how relevant (and subtle) the plot is for today. I don't have room to go into it. So go rent it and enjoy. But I will tell you that the show portrays humans as destructive to themselves and to the earth. An alien, with his robot Gort, reluctantly chooses not to destroy the humans and return the earth to its natural state. But he does destroy the capability of humans having electric power, forever. And then he returns home.

The movie leaves the message that technology can destroy. But it can paradoxically be constructive to preserving quality of life for all creatures. The show also implies that the earth, the Bambi forest at least, is better off if humans don't have electric power. Hmmm…that could be true.

In any case it will be fascinating to watch as Duke and others apply technology to resolve the wind-turbine/bird-kill issue.

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