Fact check: More misinformation from Bryce on wind and birds

Anti-wind advocate Robert Bryce penned a recent column on wind and birds for the opinion page of the Wall Street Journal. As with his previous writings on wind, Mr. Bryce again ignores a balanced analysis in favor of misinformation.

No source of energy production is without potential risk to wildlife. However, the wind energy industry’s impacts are comparatively minor, and it does more to study, avoid, and mitigate for them than any other energy industry. We work directly with federal and state regulatory officials the conservation community, and other stakeholders in this regard.

A recent analysis of studies conducted at over 100 wind farms estimated that wind power generation results in the loss of less than 200,000 birds annually.  Mr. Bryce’s claim, based on the estimate of a single U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) biologist, is that the impacts related to wind energy are nearly three times as high. However, this metric is not based on data, and has been publicly noted by senior officials within the USFWS as not being an official agency estimate.

Further, aside from the earliest wind farms developed in California during the 1980s, when siting practices were in their infancy, wind energy is responsible for less than 2% of all documented eagle fatalities nationally. In fact, fatalities caused by electrocutions, vehicle strikes, poisoning from lead and other substances, illegal shootings, and even drowning in livestock watering tanks all exceed wind energy’s impact on eagles.

Contrary to Mr. Bryce’s assertion, the eagle “take” permit is not a wholesale license to kill eagles, nor is it specifically designed for the wind industry.  Authorized by the 2009 Eagle Permit Rule under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, it provides legal protection to an individual or company (i.e., oil & gas, utilities, military bases and airports, wind energy, etc.) for the "take" of an eagle that is incidental to, and not the purpose of, otherwise legal activity–including energy production.

This protection is available under carefully controlled conditions.  Any proposed wind farm must holistically evaluate the risk to eagles and take steps to reduce the potential for fatalities. If the threat of eagle mortality continues, the developer or operator must compensate for fatalities to ensure that eagles' overall numbers are stable or increasing. This high standard puts significant pressure on wind farm owners and operators to reduce their impacts to the greatest extent practicable.

Moreover, in March 2012, the USFWS released the final version of the Voluntary Land-Based Wind Energy Guidelines. These guidelines are the result of over five years of collaboration between representatives of the wind energy industry, the conservation community, USFWS, state wildlife officials, and tribes. The guidelines hold the wind industry to a higher standard for wildlife protection than is legally required and include specific recommendations related to pre-construction studies, post-construction monitoring, and mitigation, to ensure that each new project has the best information available to mitigate risks to wildlife.

In conclusion, no method of energy generation is completely benign.  However, given that generating electricity with wind power requires no mining or drilling for fuel, creates no air or water pollution, generates no hazardous waste, and utilizes no water in the generation of electricity its net health and environmental benefits–for both wildlife and humans–are clear.

Related articles on wind and birds:

Fact check: Spectator (U.K.) overlooks facts on wind power and wildlife, January 15, 2013
Fact check: FOX News article fails to put wind development in context, January 2, 2013
Fact check: CFACT's Driessen wildly off base on bird claims, December 24, 2012

Wind-wildlife meeting highlights wind industry's proactive approach, December 3, 2012

Fact check: Voice of America article on wind and birds lacks context, November 2, 2012

Sage-grouse collaborative to fund two wind-related studies, August 13, 2012

Fact check: Wired story bypasses wind industry's efforts on bats, July 10, 2012

Opinion: Wind energy threat to eagles relatively low, June 26, 2012

American Wind Wildlife Institute releases white paper on eagles and wind power, May 25, 2012

Already following federal bird guidelines, wind co. says, March 29, 2012

Fact check: Bryce missteps on wind and birds, March 8, 2012

Colorado collaboration: Wind companies, conservation groups agree on wildlife best practices, February 6, 2012

The Fish & Wildlife Eagle Permit Rule: Our perspective, January 10, 2012

Wind power's impact on birds: modest, December 15, 2011

Birds and wind: Bad news leads, good news in weeds, August 29, 2011

Fact check: Fox News off base on bird collisions, August 19, 2011

News story draws questionable conclusions from eagle collisions with old turbines, June 6, 2011

WINDPOWER report: Whooping cranes may avoid wind farms, more research ahead, May 25, 2011

Wind developer launches intensive avian monitoring program, May 23, 2011

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, AWEA, wind developers sign agreement to promote endangered species conservation, April 20, 2011


Related articles on Robert Bryce:

Fact check: Bryce off target on wind power jobs, September 19, 2012

Fact check: On turbine sound, it's Bryce vs. science, July 24, 2012

Big energy companies building wind farms? And that's bad?, June 18, 2012

Fact check: Bryce misleads on land use, wind power's potential, May 30, 2012

Fact check: Bryce missteps on wind and birds, March 8, 2012

Fact check: Bryce bypasses facts, bashes clean energy, February 24, 2012

Fact check: Bryce misleads again on land, sound, resource use, January 31, 2012

Fact check: Bryce whopper on land use, January 19, 2012

Are these comments Robert Bryce doesn't want you to see?, December 23, 2011

Fact check: Bryce ignores renewable energy's benefits, attacks companies that make it, suggests they face a tax increase, December 21, 2011

Fact check: Bryce goes astray on jobs, land use, and more, Nov. 22, 2011

Fact check: Bryce again misinforms on wind costs/benefits, Oct. 20, 2011

Fact check: Bryce errs on incentives, wind's popularity, Oct. 13, 2011

Fact check: Bryce whiffs on wind power and Texas heat wave, Aug. 12, 2011

Robert Bryce, King of the NIMBYs, Aug. 10, 2011

Fact check: Bryce out to lunch with latest anti-wind broadside, Aug. 3, 2011

Fact check: Bryce, Bentek miss on emissions, July 20, 2011

Fact check: Bryce stumbles on land use, sound, steel, benefits, June 8, 2011

Fact check: Bryce continues cherry-picking crusade in National Review, May 18, 2011

Fact check: Bryce omits mention of fossil fuel subsidies, Dec. 14, 2010

Fact check: Robert Bryce misleads with WSJ op-ed, Dec. 23, 2010

Bryce overlooks another convenient truth, Dec. 14, 2010

Robert Bryce runs afoul of another reviewer, Sept. 14, 2010

Mythbusting fact: Yes, wind does reduce emissions, Aug. 27, 2010

"Power Hungry? Or just on a low-fact diet?": Michael Goggin's review of Bryce's "Power Hungry," July 2, 2010


Stay informed

Take Action

Subscribe to the American Clean Power blog and receive the latest renewable energy news, policy updates, and opportunities to get involved.