FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

All

What is WECC?


We are a coalition of individuals and organizations around the world fighting industrial scale renewable energy projects. Our co-chairs are Lisa Linowes and Michael Shellenberger, two long-time environmental and community activists. We created WECC to protect communities and the natural environment from the harms caused by industrial scale renewable projects, which have a long track record of killing wildlife, including endangered species, and dividing families and communities around the world.




Who funds the WECC and its members? Do you take fossil fuel or nuclear industry money?


No. WECC leadership and our members accept funding only from those individuals and organizations without a financial interest in our work. We do not accept and have never accepted, any funding from any energy company, investor, union, or any other entity.




Are you advocating we use more nuclear and natural gas?


WECC and its members recognize industrial renewables cannot realistically power global economies and that other forms of energy are needed. We are still developing our position with regard to climate change, nuclear, and natural gas, as well as other technologies, like carbon capture and storage. Some of WECC's members are pro-nuclear, others are pro-natural gas. For now, we are simply opposed to industrial renewable energy projects.




Are you conservative or progressive? Democrat or Republican?


WECC is strictly nonpartisan and nonideological. Our members are united in our opposition to industrial renewables but have a variety of views and political perspectives on other issues. We believe industrial renewable energy is bad for communities, wildlife, endangered species, and landscapes for inherently physical reasons. Democrats don’t want industrial wind projects near them and neither do Republicans. WECC seeks to educate people, policymakers, and news media of all parties.




Are you against ALL renewables?


Our focus is on high-impact (utility-scale) wind and solar development, not small scale projects, or things like rooftop solar. That being said, we don’t think it’s honest to claim that rooftop solar is a viable alternative. Rooftop solar has the same inherent power density limitations as all renewables.




What are some of the species you are fighting for?


WECC has identified several key species who are threatened by industrial renewables including Whooping Cranes, Golden Eagles, migratory bats, Bald Eagles, migratory birds of the Great Lakes, condors, Black Stork, and Lesser Spotted Eagles. Currently WECC is finalizing a white paper that examines the specific impacts of wind energy on the Whooping Crane, the hoary and Indiana bat, and Golden Eagles. More papers of this nature will be coming from WECC.




What is WECC's track record?


WECC is a brand new coalition founded in July 2020, but its members have won battles against industrial wind and solar projects around the world. For examples of our members’ successes, visit Our Members page and read some of their bios.




Where are you based?


WECC has members around the US and the world. Our members are from a variety of US states and the UK, and we are growing everyday! WECC is committed to protecting wildlife and communities everywhere and are open to new members from any state, country, or region.




Why are there websites claiming that WECC leaders have taken money from the Koch brothers?


Facebook has so far failed to stop the industrial wind energy lobby (AWEA) and its public relations firm (Tiger Communications) from lying about us. AWEA and Tiger Communications have deliberately sought to smear reputations of WECC leaders by creating front groups that lie and mislead. WECC is in the process of filing a formal complaint with Facebook.




Who can be a member of WECC? Can I join?


Anybody who is working to stop industrial renewable energy projects and supports others who are doing the same is invited to be a member of WECC. The only condition of being a member is that you cannot be a NIMBY who is seeking to simply dump the industrial renewable project proposed for your community onto somebody else’s community. To be a member, you should be aligned with Our Mission and agree to help other WECC members in their efforts. Please visit our Become a Member page or email us to get involved!




Are donations to WECC tax-deductible?


WECC is in the process of applying for its nonprofit status. If we get it, then the IRS will likely recognize all donations in the past as tax-deductible. However if you would like to make a donation over $1,000 and would like to be certain, please email Lisa Linowes to find a nonprofit member of WECC to support.




What are donations used for?


We have many needs! We need to support our outreach effort around the world. Currently, there are many people battling industrial renewable energy projects who need our help. We need money to fund our studies that show the ongoing impacts of wind and solar facilities on the natural environment and human neighbors. And we need money to support scholarships for people to attend our annual conference.




When is the annual conference?


WECC holds its annual conference every June. This year’s conference was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, but we are already starting to plan next year’s conference.




What does success look like to WECC?


WECC will succeed when the public understands that industrial renewables will never replace nuclear or fossil fuels because their energy densities and power densities are too low to power high-energy societies. Already, this has started happening with biomass and biofuels, which are today opposed by most environmentalists, including even Greenpeace.




Are you making progress?


WECC is growing faster than we ever thought possible! We are rapidly adding new members around the world, and finding that we have a lot to learn from each other. Please visit our Become a Member page or email us to get involved!




But aren’t renewables good for the environment?


They aren’t. Industrial scale renewables are bad for the environment. Industrial wind, biofuels, and solar all require 300 - 400 times more land than nuclear or natural gas plants. They consume huge amounts of land, destroying important wildlife habitat as well as formerly farmed land. Industrial wind and solar projects have clear track records of killing endangered species.




How impacting are the turbine access roads?


For most projects, developers insist that the roads will be roughly 11-meters in width (36-feet) width during construction, but allowed to re-vegetate back to 16-foot ‘trails’. It’s important to be aware that a 36-foot wide road is as wide as a 3-lane interstate highway in the U.S. If steep slopes are involved, comprehensive measures are needed to prevent erosion - all of which add to the width of the cleared area. The road's subsurface and related compaction for the travel surface likely prohibit re-growth beyond shallow grasses raising doubts that the impacted area will ever return to its original state. Turbine maintenance that requires large crane assemblies to be brought back to a site means soil compaction is an ongoing concern throughout the life of the project.




Wind advocates say wildlife can co-exist with turbines. Is this not true?


The wind industry often displays pictures of animals grazing near the turbines in order to demonstrate the towers are safe, but these images provide no useful information as to how wildlife is faring in proximity to the turbines, the condition of the impacted habitat or whether there’s been a change in species resident at the site. Operating projects can reduce populations of resident species, increase the risks of predation, limit available food supply due to other prey leaving the site, and increase hunting. Many of these same concerns are raised at logging operations but the impacts are spreading into many different environments as turbine projects move into desert, mountainous, and now offshore areas.




But don’t cats and buildings kill more birds than wind turbines?


Wind proponents often insist that other sources of bird mortality, including cats, buildings (windows), and communications towers, are far more deadly to avian life than wind turbines. Arguing which sources are more deadly to birds should not distract from the very real fact that turbines kill birds. Regardless, the types of birds involved in turbine collisions are an important factor. According to Evans, “the high mortality figures associated with cats and windows predominantly involve plentiful species that are common in suburban and residential neighborhoods or in the vicinity of farms, whereas the species killed at commercial wind turbine facilities and communications towers are largely neotropical migrant songbirds; species of conservation concern that nest in our wild lands.” Evans, William R. 2004. “Critical review of Chautauqua Windpower, LLC Avian Risk Assessment.”




But newer, larger turbines are supposed to be safer for birds, right?


Wind companies often claim that newer turbines spin more slowly than older models and the slower speeds mean the turbines are less deadly to birds. The 'slower' spin rate is misleading. The fact is, the new towers have blade lengths that are approaching or are longer than 200-feet. The 3-blade assembly sweeps an area of nearly 3 acres in size. In order for the blades to complete 14-16 revolutions per minute, a typical rotation-rate for turbines, the blades would have to spin at 200 mph at the tips. At a distance, the blades give the appearance of dancing slowly in the breeze. As a bird flies within the rotor sweep area, it may clear one blade, only to be hit by the next traveling at it at 200 mph. Since the blades are moving, birds do not judge distances well. Bear in mind that these blades have a thickness of 9+ feet. Thus, the newer towers are taller and spinning quickly. In a typical project where turbines are placed in linear arrays, birds would be flying into a forest of blades.




How many birds do US-sited turbines kill annually?


Estimates of bird fatalities are disputed but research shows the number exceeds half a billion annually in the United States with greater risks at sites with taller hub heights (Loss). This actual number might be much higher. Determining mortality levels involves searching around the towers and counting dead carcasses. Not all projects are searched but where searches are conducted, debate persists regarding search protocols. As a result, many wildlife specialists familiar with the issue believe that actual mortality is grossly understated.




Aren’t there laws in place to protect birds?


Yes, but federal statutes that protect migratory birds and eagles are rarely enforced. Only one wind company, Duke Energy Renewables Inc., has been prosecuted under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MTBA) for failing to “make all reasonable efforts” to avoid the deaths after being warned (USAO). The company pled guilty and agreed to pay $1 million in fines, implement additional mitigation strategies to avoid/minimize collisions, and to apply for Eagle Take Permits at each of the two wind projects where the violations were found. Recently, a second wind project came under investigation in Arizona for bird and bat kills (Davis). The rules governing enforcement of the MTBA have since been weakened. Under the new rules, Duke Energy would not be prosecuted for the same actions.




Are there similar impacts on bats?


Bat mortality due to wind turbines is a very serious issue, particularly for migratory bats. Given the large numbers of bats killed at operating wind facilities yearly (as many as 1 million or more in the U.S alone), and the slow birth rate, a recent study concluded that wind turbines could realistically cause a substantial decline in bat populations and raise the risks of regional extinction (Frick).




How serious is the risk of extinction for bats?


Very serious! Wind turbines and White-Nose are now the leading causes of bat deaths. The Little Brown Bat, which was once the most common bat species in many areas of the U.S. has been hit hard by White-Nose Syndrome. Annual mortality rates could be as high as 90%. The US Fish and Wildlife Service is studying whether the Little Brown Bat should be listed under the Endangered Species Act. Collisions with wind turbines are killing Hoary Bats at unsustainable rates. Between 2006 and 2016, the species accounted for the highest proportion (38%) of all cited bat fatalities at wind energy facilities in North America. Frick et al. (2017) found that current mortality rates from wind turbines could result in “rapid and severe declines” of up to 90 percent in the next 50 years. Even in the most optimistic modelling scenarios, hoary bat fatalities associated with wind turbines are unsustainable.




What can be done to reduce bat mortality?


Different theories have tried to explain why bats are attracted to wind turbines. Efforts to discourage the creatures from project areas have not been fruitful. A breakthrough came in 2009-2010 when bat experts, led by Bat Conservation International, found that most bat mortality occurred under low wind conditions particularly at night during the summer and fall months (Arnett). By raising the wind speed at which turbines start spinning to 5.5-6.5 meters per second, researchers recorded significant drops in bat mortality ranging from 44-93 percent without a corresponding reduction in annual turbine generation. Some states, including Vermont and Maine, now mandate that all projects follow this protocol. Generally, the wind industry has acknowledged the problem but developers are less willing to make operational adjustments.




Are birds and bats the only animals impacted by turbines?


No. While birds and bat fatalities have been directly attributed to working wind turbines, far less is understood about the impact on other wildlife displaced by wind development, the fragmentation of their habitat, and the stress of human activity at an industrial level near where the animals live and migrate. There is evidence that turbine noise drives wildlife away but meaningful pre-construction studies to record baseline activity are rarely prepared. Such studies would be needed in order to compare changes in species behavior after the project is operational. WECC is awaiting the results of a multi-year study underway in Vermont that is reviewing the impact of the Deerfield wind facility on important black bear habitat.




Aren’t industrial solar farms better?


There is no evidence that industrial solar farms are less impacting than industrial wind turbines. There is a growing body of research finding that solar farms even in places widely considered to be ecological dead zones, like the Mojave deserts, kill endangered species, such as the rare and beautiful California desert tortoise, many of which have been killed by industrial solar. California’s signature solar farm kills hundreds to thousands of birds every year. And now a massive push for industrial scale renewables is underway.




If industrial scale renewable energy projects are so bad for the environment, why are so many environmental groups pushing for 100% clean energy?


Many environmental groups are increasingly concerned about the warming planet and have made fighting climate change their top priority. Unfortunately, they see clean/renewable energy as the answer, not looking at the destruction to birds, bats, wildlife and habitat that will follow. Clean energy developers have minimized and trivialized the health effects of wind energy on humans as well.




Don’t all energy sources have their environmental downsides?


Yes, all energy sources have environmental downsides. However, the downsides of industrial scale renewable energy are simply not being looked at by renewable energy advocates, and are being downplayed and ignored by the renewable energy industry. One of the downsides of renewables is their low energy density and power density. As a result, renewables require substantially more land than conventional forms of energy. The spinning blades of industrial wind turbines kill large numbers of endangered birds, insects, and bats. Solar projects which concentrate sunlight kill birds flying over, burning them to a crisp. Migrating waterfowl looking at large expanses of solar panels dive into them, thinking they are lakes, and are not able to regain flight. Large solar facilities often include perimeter fencing which prohibits free movement of migrating land animals. Square miles of land covered with solar panels lock out wildlife and destroy plant life present under the panels. These dangers are multiplied by the sheer number of industrial scale wind and solar projects being built now, and those being proposed. These projects will drastically alter our planet, resulting in huge numbers of birds and bats being killed and massive loss of wildlife habitat.




But I heard wind energy has small land needs for the turbines.


Renewables have low power densities and thus require more land and thus require substantially more land than more traditional sources of generation. The land requirements cited by wind developers are misleading and only represent the acreage after construction is completed and without regard for the impacts related to construction. Placement of the turbines requires tens of thousands of acres in order that the operation of one turbine does not interfere with others within the same project. The land moving and excavation needed to accommodate the turbine foundations and many miles of new access roads alters the area permanently despite allowing portions of the construction area to revegetate. This is especially true in virgin areas of the desert and on ridgelines. Wind project developments invite invasive, unwanted plants that smother natural plant colonies. Ridgeline development typically requires substantial blasting in order that roads can be built into the mountain for stability. The layout of the project is also a factor. Projects typically follow a linear pattern which means the degree of impact extends deep into a natural area rather than being clustered in one place. Such clearing within forested areas creates edge effects that compromise habitats as much as 340 meters (1100 feet) in all directions for certain species. When considering the noise emitted from the turbines, the habitat is further disrupted.




The important point is that wind leads to 0% carbon energy, right?


Not exactly. Wind energy is an intermittent energy source that can only be produced when the wind is blowing. Very little of the installed capacity of wind energy is relied on by power markets to be there at critical times. This is particularly true during the afternoon summer hours when peak demand for energy is highest. Despite the rhetoric that the United States can be powered 100% by wind energy, the reality is much different. In the US Department of Energy (DOE) report “20% Wind Power by 2030” the DOE made clear that the primary reason for developing wind power is to reduce carbon and not to meet US electricity needs. Put another way, two electricity systems are needed – one to power our homes and businesses and the second, fueled by wind, to reduce our carbon by displacing fossil fuel.




US CO2 levels have dropped precipitously. Isn’t wind power the reason?


Wind energy has played a very small role in the drop in emissions over the last decade. The dominant reason for the reduction in CO2 levels was the US transition to natural gas and away from coal. In fact, in many places in the United States, but especially in New England, New York, and the Pacific Northwest, wind energy displaces other renewables including hydroelectric. When wind energy displaces other renewables on the grid, there is no apparent effect on CO2 levels. Simplistic models used to calculate the amount of CO2 avoided for each megawatt hour of wind energy on the grid are not necessarily reflective of actual reductions on the ground. If the wind generation displaces a megawatt hour produced by another wind project or existing hydro facility which is often the case in New York State, for example, the calculated avoidance would be overstated.




What does the WECC do?


WECC investigates the environmental and community impacts of industrial scale renewable energy development. We seek to alert the public and policymakers, and journalists about the environmental consequences of renewables. We provide support to communities fighting industrial scale renewable energy projects through mutual action, aid, and advice. WECC organizes video conference calls for our members and an annual conference. WECC raises money to support communities fighting industrial scale renewable energy projects.





About Us

What is WECC?


We are a coalition of individuals and organizations around the world fighting industrial scale renewable energy projects. Our co-chairs are Lisa Linowes and Michael Shellenberger, two long-time environmental and community activists. We created WECC to protect communities and the natural environment from the harms caused by industrial scale renewable projects, which have a long track record of killing wildlife, including endangered species, and dividing families and communities around the world.




Who funds the WECC and its members? Do you take fossil fuel or nuclear industry money?


No. WECC leadership and our members accept funding only from those individuals and organizations without a financial interest in our work. We do not accept and have never accepted, any funding from any energy company, investor, union, or any other entity.




What does the WECC do?


WECC investigates the environmental and community impacts of industrial scale renewable energy development. We seek to alert the public and policymakers, and journalists about the environmental consequences of renewables. We provide support to communities fighting industrial scale renewable energy projects through mutual action, aid, and advice. WECC organizes video conference calls for our members and an annual conference. WECC raises money to support communities fighting industrial scale renewable energy projects.




Are you advocating we use more nuclear and natural gas?


WECC and its members recognize industrial renewables cannot realistically power global economies and that other forms of energy are needed. We are still developing our position with regard to climate change, nuclear, and natural gas, as well as other technologies, like carbon capture and storage. Some of WECC's members are pro-nuclear, others are pro-natural gas. For now, we are simply opposed to industrial renewable energy projects.




Are you conservative or progressive? Democrat or Republican?


WECC is strictly nonpartisan and nonideological. Our members are united in our opposition to industrial renewables but have a variety of views and political perspectives on other issues. We believe industrial renewable energy is bad for communities, wildlife, endangered species, and landscapes for inherently physical reasons. Democrats don’t want industrial wind projects near them and neither do Republicans. WECC seeks to educate people, policymakers, and news media of all parties.




Are you against ALL renewables?


Our focus is on high-impact (utility-scale) wind and solar development, not small scale projects, or things like rooftop solar. That being said, we don’t think it’s honest to claim that rooftop solar is a viable alternative. Rooftop solar has the same inherent power density limitations as all renewables.




What are some of the species you are fighting for?


WECC has identified several key species who are threatened by industrial renewables including Whooping Cranes, Golden Eagles, migratory bats, Bald Eagles, migratory birds of the Great Lakes, condors, Black Stork, and Lesser Spotted Eagles. Currently, WECC is finalizing a white paper that examines the specific impacts of wind energy on the Whooping Crane, the hoary and Indiana bat, and Golden Eagles. More papers of this nature will be coming from WECC.




What is WECC's track record?


WECC is a brand new coalition founded in July 2020, but its members have won battles against industrial wind and solar projects around the world. For examples of our members’ successes, visit Our Members page and read some of their bios.




Where are you based?


WECC has members around the US and the world. Our members are from a variety of US states and the UK, and we are growing everyday! WECC is committed to protecting wildlife and communities everywhere and are open to new members from any state, country, or region.




Why are there websites claiming that WECC leaders have taken money from the Koch brothers?


Facebook has so far failed to stop the industrial wind energy lobby (AWEA) and its public relations firm (Tiger Communications) from lying about us. AWEA and Tiger Communications have deliberately sought to smear reputations of WECC leaders by creating front groups that lie and mislead. WECC is in the process of filing a formal complaint with Facebook.




Who can be a member of WECC? Can I join?


Anybody who is working to stop industrial renewable energy projects and supports others who are doing the same is invited to be a member of WECC. The only condition of being a member is that you cannot be a NIMBY who is seeking to simply dump the industrial renewable project proposed for your community onto somebody else’s community. To be a member, you should be aligned with Our Mission and agree to help other WECC members in their efforts. Please visit our Become a Member page or email us to get involved!




Are donations to WECC tax-deductible?


WECC is in the process of applying for its nonprofit status. If we get it, then the IRS will likely recognize all donations in the past as tax-deductible. However if you would like to make a donation over $1,000 and would like to be certain, please email Lisa Linowes to find a nonprofit member of WECC to support.




What are donations used for?


We have many needs! We need to support our outreach effort around the world. Currently, there are many people battling industrial renewable energy projects who need our help. We need money to fund our studies that show the ongoing impacts of wind and solar facilities on the natural environment and human neighbors. And we need money to support scholarships for people to attend our annual conference.




When is the annual conference?


WECC holds its annual conference every June. This year’s conference was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, but we are already starting to plan next year’s conference.




What does success look like to WECC?


WECC will succeed when the public understands that industrial renewables will never replace nuclear or fossil fuels because their energy densities and power densities are too low to power high-energy societies. Already, this has started happening with biomass and biofuels, which are today opposed by most environmentalists, including even Greenpeace.




Are you making progress?


WECC is growing faster than we ever thought possible! We are rapidly adding new members around the world, and finding that we have a lot to learn from each other. Please visit our Become a Member page or email us to get involved!





Wildlife and Environmental Impacts

But aren’t renewables good for the environment?


They aren’t. Industrial scale renewables are bad for the environment. Industrial wind, biofuels, and solar all require 300 - 400 times more land than nuclear or natural gas plants. They consume huge amounts of land, destroying important wildlife habitat as well as formerly farmed land. Industrial wind and solar projects have clear track records of killing endangered species.




How impacting are the turbine access roads?


For most projects, developers insist that the roads will be roughly 11-meters in width (36-feet) width during construction, but allowed to re-vegetate back to 16-foot ‘trails’. It’s important to be aware that a 36-foot wide road is as wide as a 3-lane interstate highway in the U.S. If steep slopes are involved, comprehensive measures are needed to prevent erosion - all of which add to the width of the cleared area. The road's subsurface and related compaction for the travel surface likely prohibit re-growth beyond shallow grasses raising doubts that the impacted area will ever return to its original state. Turbine maintenance that requires large crane assemblies to be brought back to a site means soil compaction is an ongoing concern throughout the life of the project.




Wind advocates say wildlife can co-exist with turbines. Is this not true?


The wind industry often displays pictures of animals grazing near the turbines in order to demonstrate the towers are safe, but these images provide no useful information as to how wildlife is faring in proximity to the turbines, the condition of the impacted habitat or whether there’s been a change in species resident at the site. Operating projects can reduce populations of resident species, increase the risks of predation, limit available food supply due to other prey leaving the site, and increase hunting. Many of these same concerns are raised at logging operations but the impacts are spreading into many different environments as turbine projects move into desert, mountainous, and now offshore areas.




But don’t cats and buildings kill more birds than wind turbines?


Wind proponents often insist that other sources of bird mortality, including cats, buildings (windows), and communications towers, are far more deadly to avian life than wind turbines. Arguing which sources are more deadly to birds should not distract from the very real fact that turbines kill birds. Regardless, the types of birds involved in turbine collisions are an important factor. According to Evans, “the high mortality figures associated with cats and windows predominantly involve plentiful species that are common in suburban and residential neighborhoods or in the vicinity of farms, whereas the species killed at commercial wind turbine facilities and communications towers are largely neotropical migrant songbirds; species of conservation concern that nest in our wild lands.” Evans, William R. 2004. “Critical review of Chautauqua Windpower, LLC Avian Risk Assessment.”




But newer, larger turbines are supposed to be safer for birds, right?


Wind companies often claim that newer turbines spin more slowly than older models and the slower speeds mean the turbines are less deadly to birds. The 'slower' spin rate is misleading. The fact is, the new towers have blade lengths that are approaching or are longer than 200-feet. The 3-blade assembly sweeps an area of nearly 3 acres in size. In order for the blades to complete 14-16 revolutions per minute, a typical rotation-rate for turbines, the blades would have to spin at 200 mph at the tips. At a distance, the blades give the appearance of dancing slowly in the breeze. As a bird flies within the rotor sweep area, it may clear one blade, only to be hit by the next traveling at it at 200 mph. Since the blades are moving, birds do not judge distances well. Bear in mind that these blades have a thickness of 9+ feet. Thus, the newer towers are taller and spinning quickly. In a typical project where turbines are placed in linear arrays, birds would be flying into a forest of blades.




How many birds do US-sited turbines kill annually?


Estimates of bird fatalities are disputed but research shows the number exceeds half a billion annually in the United States with greater risks at sites with taller hub heights (Loss). This actual number might be much higher. Determining mortality levels involves searching around the towers and counting dead carcasses. Not all projects are searched but where searches are conducted, debate persists regarding search protocols. As a result, many wildlife specialists familiar with the issue believe that actual mortality is grossly understated.




Aren’t there laws in place to protect birds?


Yes, but federal statutes that protect migratory birds and eagles are rarely enforced. Only one wind company, Duke Energy Renewables Inc., has been prosecuted under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MTBA) for failing to “make all reasonable efforts” to avoid the deaths after being warned (USAO). The company pled guilty and agreed to pay $1 million in fines, implement additional mitigation strategies to avoid/minimize collisions, and to apply for Eagle Take Permits at each of the two wind projects where the violations were found. Recently, a second wind project came under investigation in Arizona for bird and bat kills (Davis). The rules governing enforcement of the MTBA have since been weakened. Under the new rules, Duke Energy would not be prosecuted for the same actions.




Are there similar impacts on bats?


Bat mortality due to wind turbines is a very serious issue, particularly for migratory bats. Given the large numbers of bats killed at operating wind facilities yearly (as many as 1 million or more in the U.S alone), and the slow birth rate, a recent study concluded that wind turbines could realistically cause a substantial decline in bat populations and raise the risks of regional extinction (Frick).




How serious is the risk of extinction for bats?


Very serious! Wind turbines and White-Nose are now the leading causes of bat deaths. The Little Brown Bat, which was once the most common bat species in many areas of the U.S. has been hit hard by White-Nose Syndrome. Annual mortality rates could be as high as 90%. The US Fish and Wildlife Service is studying whether the Little Brown Bat should be listed under the Endangered Species Act. Collisions with wind turbines are killing Hoary Bats at unsustainable rates. Between 2006 and 2016, the species accounted for the highest proportion (38%) of all cited bat fatalities at wind energy facilities in North America. Frick et al. (2017) found that current mortality rates from wind turbines could result in “rapid and severe declines” of up to 90 percent in the next 50 years. Even in the most optimistic modelling scenarios, hoary bat fatalities associated with wind turbines are unsustainable.




What can be done to reduce bat mortality?


Different theories have tried to explain why bats are attracted to wind turbines. Efforts to discourage the creatures from project areas have not been fruitful. A breakthrough came in 2009-2010 when bat experts, led by Bat Conservation International, found that most bat mortality occurred under low wind conditions particularly at night during the summer and fall months (Arnett). By raising the wind speed at which turbines start spinning to 5.5-6.5 meters per second, researchers recorded significant drops in bat mortality ranging from 44-93 percent without a corresponding reduction in annual turbine generation. Some states, including Vermont and Maine, now mandate that all projects follow this protocol. Generally, the wind industry has acknowledged the problem but developers are less willing to make operational adjustments.




Are birds and bats the only animals impacted by turbines?


No. While birds and bat fatalities have been directly attributed to working wind turbines, far less is understood about the impact on other wildlife displaced by wind development, the fragmentation of their habitat, and the stress of human activity at an industrial level near where the animals live and migrate. There is evidence that turbine noise drives wildlife away but meaningful pre-construction studies to record baseline activity are rarely prepared. Such studies would be needed in order to compare changes in species behavior after the project is operational. WECC is awaiting the results of a multi-year study underway in Vermont that is reviewing the impact of the Deerfield wind facility on important black bear habitat.




Aren’t industrial solar farms better?


There is no evidence that industrial solar farms are less impacting than industrial wind turbines. There is a growing body of research finding that solar farms even in places widely considered to be ecological dead zones, like the Mojave deserts, kill endangered species, such as the rare and beautiful California desert tortoise, many of which have been killed by industrial solar. California’s signature solar farm kills hundreds to thousands of birds every year. And now a massive push for industrial scale renewables is underway.




If industrial scale renewable energy projects are so bad for the environment, why are so many environmental groups pushing for 100% clean energy?


Many environmental groups are increasingly concerned about the warming planet and have made fighting climate change their top priority. Unfortunately, they see clean/renewable energy as the answer, not looking at the destruction to birds, bats, wildlife and habitat that will follow. Clean energy developers have minimized and trivialized the health effects of wind energy on humans as well.





Energy Policy

Don’t all energy sources have their environmental downsides?


Yes, all energy sources have environmental downsides. However, the downsides of industrial scale renewable energy are simply not being looked at by renewable energy advocates, and are being downplayed and ignored by the renewable energy industry. One of the downsides of renewables is their low energy density and power density. As a result, renewables require substantially more land than conventional forms of energy. The spinning blades of industrial wind turbines kill large numbers of endangered birds, insects, and bats. Solar projects which concentrate sunlight kill birds flying over, burning them to a crisp. Migrating waterfowl looking at large expanses of solar panels dive into them, thinking they are lakes, and are not able to regain flight. Large solar facilities often include perimeter fencing which prohibits free movement of migrating land animals. Square miles of land covered with solar panels lock out wildlife and destroy plant life present under the panels. These dangers are multiplied by the sheer number of industrial scale wind and solar projects being built now, and those being proposed. These projects will drastically alter our planet, resulting in huge numbers of birds and bats being killed and massive loss of wildlife habitat.




But I heard wind energy has small land needs for the turbines.


Renewables have low power densities and thus require more land and thus require substantially more land than more traditional sources of generation. The land requirements cited by wind developers are misleading and only represent the acreage after construction is completed and without regard for the impacts related to construction. Placement of the turbines requires tens of thousands of acres in order that the operation of one turbine does not interfere with others within the same project. The land moving and excavation needed to accommodate the turbine foundations and many miles of new access roads alters the area permanently despite allowing portions of the construction area to revegetate. This is especially true in virgin areas of the desert and on ridgelines. Wind project developments invite invasive, unwanted plants that smother natural plant colonies. Ridgeline development typically requires substantial blasting in order that roads can be built into the mountain for stability. The layout of the project is also a factor. Projects typically follow a linear pattern which means the degree of impact extends deep into a natural area rather than being clustered in one place. Such clearing within forested areas creates edge effects that compromise habitats as much as 340 meters (1100 feet) in all directions for certain species. When considering the noise emitted from the turbines, the habitat is further disrupted.




The important point is that wind leads to 0% carbon energy, right?


Not exactly. Wind energy is an intermittent energy source that can only be produced when the wind is blowing. Very little of the installed capacity of wind energy is relied on by power markets to be there at critical times. This is particularly true during the afternoon summer hours when peak demand for energy is highest. Despite the rhetoric that the United States can be powered 100% by wind energy, the reality is much different. In the US Department of Energy (DOE) report “20% Wind Power by 2030” the DOE made clear that the primary reason for developing wind power is to reduce carbon and not to meet US electricity needs. Put another way, two electricity systems are needed – one to power our homes and businesses and the second, fueled by wind, to reduce our carbon by displacing fossil fuel.




US CO2 levels have dropped precipitously. Isn’t wind power the reason?


Wind energy has played a very small role in the drop in emissions over the last decade. The dominant reason for the reduction in CO2 levels was the US transition to natural gas and away from coal. In fact, in many places in the United States, but especially in New England, New York, and the Pacific Northwest, wind energy displaces other renewables including hydroelectric. When wind energy displaces other renewables on the grid, there is no apparent effect on CO2 levels. Simplistic models used to calculate the amount of CO2 avoided for each megawatt hour of wind energy on the grid are not necessarily reflective of actual reductions on the ground. If the wind generation displaces a megawatt hour produced by another wind project or existing hydro facility which is often the case in New York State, for example, the calculated avoidance would be overstated.