Galapagos bird brains survive wind turbines

April 3, 2008

Galapagos wind turbine — courtesy E8 group of power generatorsThree giant wind turbines are helping the Galapagos Islands in the Pacific Ocean towards a goal of eliminating use of fossil fuels by 2015 — and no birds have been killed in a six-month pilot scheme despite worries in many nations that big blades and bird brains don’t mix.

The Galapagos are home to mocking birds, finches, petrels, blue-footed boobies, doves, albatrosses and other exotic species many of which only live on the islands. Studies of Galapagos birds helped British 19th century naturalist Charles Darwin work out his theory of evolution.

“In six months of pilot operations there have been no bird kills,” said Melinda Kimble of the U.N. Foundation, a sponsor of the $10.8 million project led by power producers including American Electric Power and also backed by Ecuador’s government.

Power producers studied birds’ flight paths and nesting habits to decide the siting of the turbines and reduce risks of collisions.

“There seems a very broad support for the project, right down to school kids,” said Kimble after attending an official dedication ceremony late last month on San Cristobal, the island with the biggest human population.

A pelican not affected by the oil spill stands on a rock as the Ecuador-registered ship “Jessica” remains aground off San Cristobal in the Galapagos Island chain, January 25, 2001. Nine days after the ship ran aground and spilled most of its cargo of diesel and bunker fuel, the spill continues to threaten animal species native only to the archipelago. GG/HBThe turbines have a generating capacity of 800 Kwh and will provide up to about 80 percent of San Cristobal’s electricity needs in windy months, halving the need for diesel fuel to power the island. The ship “Jessica,” carrying 160,000 gallons (606,000 liters) of diesel fuel and about 80,000 gallons (300,000 liters) gallons of other liquids, is seen January 21, 2001. A boat carrying fuel to Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands that ran aground four days ago is leaking oil into the ecologically sensitive waters near the famous islands, the government said Saturday. The spill has already affected animals including sea lions and pelicans and volunteers are on standby to clean up and rescue them, an ecologist said. GG

The shift to renewable energy for the islands was spurred after the oil tanker Jessica ran aground with 160,000 gallons of diesel fuel in 2001 — some oil leaked but a catastrophe was narrowly averted thanks to favourable winds and tides.

Bird lovers say that turbines from California to Denmark often kill birds.

But are the turbines a threat — or is it just a case of siting them with care?

8 comments

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Who honestly thinks they are a good idea? They use more energy to build them than they ever produce in their lifetime. And they a skidmark on the underpants of nature. Unsightly.

Posted by Jonny Goldberg | Report as abusive

How certain are they that no kills occured from injured birds limping off to die? Are there predators beneath the turbines feasting on carcases or carrying them off before the checks have been made? 6 months is not long either – perhaps seasonal fluctuations of movement might be different. If none of these apply, then it’s good news (apart from the eyesore aspect).

Agreed with Ivan that more time is needed and that some birds may be limping after glancing blows but there aren’t swarms of predators around — hawks and introduced rats i guess but even the fearsome-looking marine iguanas are vegetarians.
And Jonny’s right that turbines are unsightly — solar panels could be far less visible. But turbines are surely better than the previous noisy diesel generator spewing out noxious fumes needing supplies by tanker from the mainland…Denmark’s Vestas, which calls itself the world’s leading supplier of wind turbines, says turbines produce more energy in less than a year than is used in production — and are expected to keep generating for 20 years.
http://www.vestas.com/en/about-vestas/su stainability/wind-turbines-and-the-envir onment/life-cycle-assessment-(lca).aspx
 (see the longer reports at the bottom of the link too)

Posted by alister doyle | Report as abusive

Someone’s missing the big picture here. With climate change on the go and much more of a threat than spinning turbines or ‘unsightly’ locations a shift to renewables is to be welcomed, and is inevitable actually. We just have to get the right balance of technologies and efficiency,a challenge but nothing compared to allowing runaway climate change.

Posted by Ken Webster | Report as abusive

At least some initiative is being taken cause the least amount of polluting affect on such an exotic enviornment. Ok they may be unsightly and more study needs to be done to ascertain the long term affect on the animal population. However it is probably ‘a bit’ less damaging in the long run then having long term environmental devastation occur because of one idiot making a carless mistake with an oil tanker. Now that’s a real ‘skid mark’ gone through the underpants of nature! The thought of the government allowing such oil tankers navigating their way around such pristine environment and the potential for such devastation is so horrendous. But hey it’s only the environment. Making money is the priority here. The thought of the damages to the environment outside one’s own backyard is no concern because it ‘doesn’t affect us’. It appears this pathetically ignorant attitude of this part of the globe is changing with the alternative energy. Bring it on!

Posted by Conscientious Observer | Report as abusive

[...] Galapagos bird brains survive wind turbines [...]

Stop complaining,if you want something to moan about see what dogs are doing to the natural inhabitats.

Posted by paul | Report as abusive

Charles Darwin grew up as a Christian. He even went to a Bible College. But when his faith began to drift away from God, he had to find a way to rationalize with his conscience that God really doesn’t exist, and that is when he wrote what we know as Origin of the Species. Believe me, I am not so nieve as to say evolution doesn’t exist, it does. But evolution sparked by a big bang is not what created everything, God did. Anybody who denies that, is being intellectually dishonest with themselves. They’re lying to themselves. I mean really, the real issue is that if you admit to there being a God, you must then be accountable to Him. So, the best way to avoid that is by denying His existence. If you say God doesn’t exist, then explain to me one of the wondrous things of life….DNA.

Posted by The Herald | Report as abusive

Birds problem is a huge problem of current wind turbines. Vertical wind turbine has the better performance in protecting birds than horizon wind turbines however it still killed birds in some times.