Coffee House

The truth about dead bats and wind farms

6 January 2013

Are wind turbines really good for the environment? The economics, as we know, is often deeply dubious. But in this week’s Spectator, Oxford biological lecturer Clive Hambler reveals another drawback: the slaughter inflicted on birds and bats caught in the blades.

Hambler argues that despite death tolls from numerous sources in various countries, many environmentalists are not being thorough with their questioning of renewable energy. In Britain, this argument isn’t made much — but overseas, as Hambler says, they’re realising the damage inflicted on nature:

‘Every year in Spain alone — according to research by the conservation group SEO/Birdlife — between 6 and 18 million birds and bats are killed by wind farms. They kill roughly twice as many bats as birds. This breaks down as approximately 110–330 birds per turbine per year and 200–670 bats per year. And these figures may be conservative if you compare them to statistics published in December 2002 by the California Energy Commission: ‘In a summary of avian impacts at wind turbines by Benner et al (1993) bird deaths per turbine per year were as high as 309 in Germany and 895 in Sweden.’

Over at the New Statesman, Alex Hern has taken an assiduous look at Hambler’s article and questioned his use of these statistics, arguing they lack context. Comrade Hern notes that in the US nearly 100 million birds are killed annually by domestic/feral cats, 130 million by power lines and 97.6 to 976 million killed per year by collisions with plate glass windows. All of these figures stand up; see this referenced report by the US Department of Agriculture. However, they do nothing to detract from Hambler’s argument.

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Firstly, one of the major killers, plate glass windows, have never been sold as an environmentally friendly product, nor have they been championed by eco-activists. Read James Delingpole over at Telegraph Blogs if you have any doubts of whether this is true for wind farms. Plus, plate glass windows and roads are quite essential — imagine a world without them! Whether wind farms fall into the same category is debatable, but I’d say for certain most folks would admit they are not an utterly essential utility. The comparison between windows and turbines is really rather illogical.

Secondly, for obvious reasons wind farms tend to be erected in far-flung places and require reels of power lines to hook them up to the National Grid. Therefore, Hern’s argument that power lines also kill millions of birds again does not detract from Hambler’s view. In fact, it strengthens the argument against wind farms.

Thirdly, although the quantity of animals killed may not be extraordinary the quality certainly is. Clive Hambler’s expertise is in the preservation and extinction of species — hence his concern. As he notes in the original article, the deaths inflicted by turbines are worrying because they are adversely affecting rarer species, such as bats:

‘Bats are what is known as K-selected species: they reproduce very slowly, live a long time and are easy to wipe out. Having evolved with few predators — flying at night helps — bats did very well with this strategy until the modern world. This is why they are so heavily protected by so many conventions and regulations: the biggest threats to their survival are made by us.’

Environment friendliness is the raison d’etre of turbines manufacturers, yet their power generating machines are having a profound effect on ecosystems. Decide for yourself whether the negative affect on the animal population — however big or small it may be — is worth it. The deaths may not be in the same league as cats or windows, but they undeniably still exist. And in quite sobering numbers. Saying that we should not be bothered about a few more thousand bird and bat corpses is, I would humbly submit, a rather weak argument for the advocates of wind power.

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Show comments
  • Fergus Pickering

    I am against wind farms because they are a waste of money but this stuff about bats is bollocks.

  • Bob339

    It is surely possible to design and build some kind of birdscarer to keep them away from the blades. In Germany the wind turbines provide as much energy as 8 nuke power stations – surely we could site ours in places where they would do the least harm.

  • Citisix

    I guess it’s better we just stop with the wind power and go back to killing entire species with fossil fuel pollution then?

    • Time Traveller

      Daniel – Do tell; what entire species have we killed with fossil fuel pollution?

      • Daniel Maris

        That’s not me. Let Citisix defend that proposition. I am sure it’s true on a global scale.

        • the viceroy’s gin

          You’re sure of a lot of things. The ignorant and uneducated generally are.

          • Daniel Maris

            No. I think you’ll find that’s wrong. The ignorant and uneducated tend to suffer from low self esteem. Like you.

            • the viceroy’s gin

              Yes, you’re sure of that, in addition to the rest of your sureties. The ignorant and uneducated are always so.

  • nastybrutishshort

    i hope I will be dead as a doornail when we are all wondering why our crops don’t get pollinated because the bees are dying out in large numbers, why we are bitten by mosquitoes all summer because the bats are dead. Unfortunately I may live a long time more unless I go crazy with the noise of the turbines.

    • Daniel Maris

      You live close to a turbine do you?

      From windmeasurementinternational –

      “Are wind turbines noisy?

      Wind turbines are not noisy. There are strict guidelines on wind turbines and noise emissions to safeguard the protection of residential amenities. Mechanical noise from turbines has been rendered almost undetectable with the evolution of wind farm advancements over the past decade. The main sound that can be heard is the aerodynamic swoosh of the blades passing the tower, but It is possible to stand underneath a turbine and have a conversation without having to raise your voice.

      In fact as the wind speed rises, the sound from the wind masks the noise made by wind turbines anyway. For more information, read the facts about noise from wind turbines section or why not visit a wind farm and hear it yourself.”

      • the viceroy’s gin

        Your ignorance and lack of education have been comprehensively exposed in this discussion, and you are incapable of even following that discussion.

        You should just stop now.

        • Daniel Maris

          Well someone got out of bed the wrong side…

          • the viceroy’s gin

            Your ignorance and lack of education would render you incapable of understand that, as with most things.

            • Daniel Maris

              Your English comprehension would make you incapable of “understand” (sic) what I wrote.

              • the viceroy’s gin

                Ironic, as about everything you blather should be followed by brackets and sic, as befits the blatherings of the ignorant and uneducated.

                • Daniel Maris

                  Sadly your comment only indicates your inability to comprehend complex concepts. Your statement is sardonic not ironic and fails to appreciate that I was being doubly not singly ironic (a common error). I fear that your inability to understand the difference is an indication of your ignorance and lack of education. Ignorant people often use quaint dialect phrases like “blatherings” when confronted by an intelligent and educated person. I don’t think you’re to blame, more to be pitied really.

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  Your blatherings are getting longer and more disjointed. The ignorant and uneducated often do that.

  • Daniel Maris

    I’m surprised you don’t respond Sebastian, since your original article has been comprehensively trashed here in this thread.

  • Jeremy Elgin

    what many here miss is that there is “no no impact solution”. We need power – and there are costs no matter what we do. Fossil fuels emit co2, and are very destructive to the environment during the exploration, refining/processing and transportation phases as well (not to mention disasters like Exxon Valdez, Texas City Refinery explosions, Bunsfield, Gulf of Mexico, etc, etc.) Nuclear has similar issues (as well as Chynoboyal, Fukishma, Sellafield, 3 Mile Island, etc )no co2 but waste disposal issues instead (still not solved). Wind – looks ugly to some, but I suspect the environmental damage compared to the options are negligible.

    • Daniel Maris

      I haven’t missed that. I have said on numerous occasions that all energy systems inflict some level of environmental damage. But some are better than others and some carry much lower risks than others.

      • the viceroy’s gin

        And you couldn’t distinguish between any of them, because you’re ignorant and uneducated, and unequipped to the task.

        • Daniel Maris

          Let’s see…nuclear energy….9GW of energy capacity lost following Japanese tsunami…agricultural land poisoned for many years…hundreds of thousands made unemployed and traumatised in other ways…resultant losses measured in hundreds of billions of dollars…need to store waste underground for thousands of years…need for security services to do detailed monitoring of employees…need for facilities to be able to withstand aircraft impact….need for faciltiies to be protected with anti-aircraft missiles…yes, I think I can hazard a guess that nuclear fission power is more risky than some other technologies…

          But plainly such a conclusion must be the result of stupidity.

          • the viceroy’s gin

            Your ignorance and lack of education makes it impossible for you to draw conclusions.

            • Daniel Maris

              I guess that goes for the millions of Japanese affected by the nuclear disaster as well.

              • the viceroy’s gin

                Not that you’d be able to understand the hows and whys of what happened, because you’re ignorant and uneducated.

                • Daniel Maris

                  Why not enlighten us…what did happen? Was there a temporary interruption in supply and now everything is back to normal and nobody in the area has been discomforted in any way? Do tell…

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  You are incapable of enlightenment, as you’re ignorant and uneducated.

                  To be enlightened, one must have a minimum level of education, which you don’t.

                • Daniel Maris

                  A true stylist would have written “minimal” and understood that as the Latin root of education means “to lead out”, to talk of “levels” is a gross solecism.

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  Not that you’d know about that, as you’re ignorant and uneducated, and are merely making blathering assertions bout that and everything else.

                • Daniel Maris

                  Assertions? Now you are disputing the accuracy of Latin dictionaries – how very…odd.

                  Educo = to draw out, lead out

                  To talk of “levels” of education is the mark of an uneducated man.

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  To fantasize what somebody else is saying, in the midst of accompanying blathering assertions, is the mark of the ignorant and uneducated, as you.

  • Macky Dee

    Kevin the fruit bat has died

  • Thomas Paine

    Oh dear ….. ‘most folks’ …. this is supposed to be The Spectator, free from naff Americanisms. We are not (most of us) in Texas.

    • Daniel Maris

      Lots of people on Coffee House are already in Texas metaphorically .They are itching to get their hands on a six shooter and sign up at the local Tea Party lodge…unfortunately for them, if they went there they would find an awful lot of wind turbines…something like 10,000 already I think.

  • In2minds

    Bugger the birds so long as Time Yeo gets his profit

    • telemachus

      Y’all need to take heed of Prince Charles today and look to your grandkids

      • Daniel Maris

        I’d like to say welcome back Telemachus…

        …but something deep inside, the honesty impulse, is preventing me from doing so.

  • Fernando5

    Another cause of injury and death to birds are the large glass picture windows in homes and offices. I had three pigeons killed that way at home last year and colleagues inform me that a loud bump is often heard in their office blocks as another bird smashes its head against the glass surface. Is there anything which can be done to prevent this?

    • Noa

      Brick up the windows?

    • Daniel Maris

      Just pretend it’s not an issue, like James Delingpole does. That way life will be sweet and uncomplicated.

    • MichtyMe

      Adhere something to the surface to enhance visibility, perhaps a silhouette of a raptor, probably be able to buy that somewhere.

      • Noa

        or George Monbiot

        • Daniel Maris

          Monbiot favours nuclear energy, don’t forget – weird though that sounds. I am sure the nuclear energy industry is v. pleased to have such a rational advocate to lead their campaign for subsidies.

          • Noa

            Surely he can serve as a scarecrow, even if the transfer glows a bit?

            • Daniel Maris

              If you gave him a megaphone he could give aerial lectures on semiology. That should scare them away.

  • Daniel Maris

    As I know people here are very concerned about bird deaths I thought I’d give you, Sebastian, and others the chance to sign my petition on this thread as well:



    • Noa

      Daniel, I know this is a passion of yours but you’ve never resorted to posts in such indigestible capitals before.

      Have you eaten some bad cheese?

      • Daniel Maris

        It’s a petition. I wouldn’t call it a passion. A particular interest might be nearer the mark. The caps were just to signify it was a petition…that nobody wants to sign it seems.

        • Noa

          But what purpose will it serve? Fraser’s a decent chap I think, but he’s the editor. Do you expect him to have a conference call with the Bros on this particular subject after, say, a hundred votes?

          I’m opposed to 2 million new greenfield houses by the way, though i find spinning the issue out of avian wind turbine mortality rates is just, well, bizarre.

          • Daniel Maris

            It’s purpose is pretty clear. To smoke out all the supposed bird lovers as being complete opportunists. They shed crocodile (or should be raptor) tears over the miniscule number of bird deaths associated with wind turbines but are either indifferent to or cheer on the destruction of bird habitat required to accommodate mass immigration.

            • Noa


              Many Coffee Housers’ have been expressing their deep concerns about the scandal of Labour’s covert mass immigration policy and the Spectator’s coy approach to it, and lack of coverage, since Nethergate broke.

              Unfortunately a petition to the editor about the consequential housing requirement will neither change Fraser’s mind, or satisfy the Coffee Housers.

              • Daniel Maris

                :) I never thought it would…But I like to point out hypocrisies where I find them. And that includes myself in case you think otherwise, Noa…

                • Noa

                  Oh don’t knock yourself, Dan.

                  Satirical, ironic and abusive comment is freely available around here.;-)

                • Daniel Maris

                  V true – but some are quality and some are not (please note Viceroy “Stupid” Gin). 😉 😉

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  …and some are ignorant and uneducated, as yours.

                • Daniel Maris

                  Those who point fingers should put them back in their noses where they normally reside.

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  Those who are ignorant and uneducated should keep their nose out of matters they are completely ignorant and uneducated about.

                • Daniel Maris

                  Those who throw out repetitious insults should realise the absence of variation is a product of their ignorance and lack of education.

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  Those who mistakenly call rational observation “insult” should address the ignorance and lack of education that is the root of that observation.

                • Daniel Maris

                  Those who give up on unrelenting invariable insult as a weapon of debating intimidation having subsequently been banjaxed by a complex and cunningly worded post that inveigled them into an amendment to their tactics should realise that they have lost the game and give up.

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  Those who are ignorant and uneducated are always ignorant and uneducated, in any game, subsequently, banjaxedly or otherwise.

                • Daniel Maris

                  Those who cannot follow the syntax eventually revert to repetition. Sad, really.

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  Those ignorant and uneducated are incapable of reversion, because they’ll always remain ignorant and uneducated.

    • dalai guevara

      Daniel, some facts for you to inform the debate: whilst Cameron, Boles et al waffle on about wanting to incentivise house building in the countryside, there are clear signs that we are in fact heavily underperforming. By over 270,000 units since 2010, to be precise. All this talk is a smoke screen. There is no demand without finance, there is no interest in providing affordable homes on a large scale – on any scale in fact.

  • Daniel Maris

    Yes…what is the truth about the bird deaths then? In that study you quote the US Dept of Agriculture the figures for bird deaths given range from about 0.6 to just over 7 per turbine per annum. Most were below 2 per annum. That is incredibly low! As the report observes, such figures are biologically insignificant.

    You should be much worried about communication towers, motorways, destruction of habitat and feline depradation if you really are concerned about bird deaths. But since no one signed my petition (on the other thread) to Fraser Nelson against the Spectator’s support for building on bird habitat, I don’t believe any of the Don Quixotes here really are concerned about bird deaths.

    We can have a sensible debate about where not to site turbines (e.g. near bat colonies, sensitive nesting sites, at locations which might block migration routes) . But this isn’t a sensible debate, it’s a wildly gesticulting, irrational Dervish Dance Around the Deling-pole.

    • the viceroy’s gin

      …and you envirowhackos want your uneconomical dance to be subsidized by the people of the land.

      • Wessex Man

        couldn’t agree more, well said.

      • dalai guevara

        Which of your preferred energy sources is…not subsidised?

        – Fracking? It doesn’t exist yet and we are already talking tax breaks.
        – Nuclear? Not subsidised? heeellllloooooOO!
        – Thorium reactors? Where can I buy one of those for cheap?
        – New gas fired power plants? Of course they are subsidised.

        Everyone wants subsidies, and every single one is getting them. Claiming otherwise would be misrepresenting the facts, something you believe you are good at.

        • the viceroy’s gin

          Not that you’d know the difference, because, well… you’re stupid.

        • the viceroy’s gin

          …and have you gone into zoology, as your fellow power engineer appears to have done? You’re an amazing duo.

          • dalai guevara

            Answer the question or zip it, dimwit.

            • the viceroy’s gin

              You wouldn’t know whether I answered the question or not, which is because, well, in simple terms…. you’re stupid.

              • dalai guevara

                Nuclear gets the highest subsidies, your restricted vocabulary won’t change that.

                I know you don’t want to retrain, and see all your poor redundant power engineering training go to pot. You are resisting change, but guess what, the world is moving on, with or without you.

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  You wouldn’t know whether it’s moving or not, because, well… you’re stupid.

                • dalai guevara

                  I am moving it, hot shot. And quite a few others as well. Good day to you.

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  Well, I do believe you’re stupid enough to believe you’re doing something with your stupidity.

                  The stupid are like that.

                • dalai guevara

                  watch and learn

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  Well, it’s always a fine idea to watch and learn… but not to watch you stupids, as you have nothing to be learned.

                  I mean, you are stupid, afterall.

        • Latimer Alder

          Do you understand the difference between a tax break (deferred payment of tax to the Treasury) and a subsidy….actual cash transferring from from the Treasury to the producer?

          If not, here is a simple example.

          Let us assume that I am the Treasury and you are an energy producer.

          A tax break is when you owe me some money today, but find yourself temporarily strapped for cash. Knowing that you are a good risk – gas wells aren’t very mobile – I allow you to pay me next week rather than today- recognising that you need to get the well up and running before you get any cash to pay me. But the net flow of cash overall remains from you to me.

          A subsidy is when you stick up a wind turbine. It rotates (occasionally) and generates electricity, which I buy from you at the market rate, But I also give you an extra bonus in cash fro being a clever boy. The net flow of cash from me to you.

          A tax break is not a subsidy. And it is disingenuous to pretend that it is.

          • Daniel Maris

            If the government gave me a tax break of £1000 I would have £1000 extra disposable income.

            If the government gave me a subsidy of £1000 I would have £1000 extra disposable income.

            A tax break is a subsidy.

            There is no suggestion I have heard that the companies have to pay back the tax later, although it’s a possible arrangement of course.

            • Latimer Alder

              Circular argument.

              You have defined A and B to be the same. and then proved them to be so.

              Try again. Do try to understand what a tax break is,

              • Daniel Maris


                tax concession or advantage allowed by a government.
                Nothing about paying it back later.

                • Latimer Alder

                  A ‘concession’ covers a multitude of sins…from deferring payment by a day to outright cancellation of a debt.

                  Which one do you believe will apply to fracking – oh tax break wizard? And why?

                • Daniel Maris

                  I believe they will be allowed to forego tax during exploration phases in fracking areas on the basis that the government will be able to tax it nicely later on if it’s successful.

                • Latimer Alder

                  Deferred taxation

                • the viceroy’s gin


                  Don’t bother attempting to explain this to that ignorant, uneducated rube, mind you.

  • Daniel Maris

    1. If the economics of onshore wind energy are as you claim “dubious” then so much more the case with nuclear fission power, which also carries the risk of deadly nuclear catastrophe.

    2. Plate glass windows are only there as parts of buildings. Nearly all tall office buildings being constructed now are claimed to be “environmentally friendly”. So your analysis doesn’t stand up.

    3. No one is arguing for the siting of wind turbines next to rare bat colonies, or indeed rare bird nesting sites. You don’t seem to understand nature if you think a few birds killed per turbine each year is a problem. Nature is abundant. If those birds hadn’t died, some other birds would have died, because they are all competing for limited resources and that is the way of nature. By dying in a collision with a wind turbine they make ecological “room” in the niche for another bird. Feline depradations are different because their presence can cause not just death but also disturbance, discouraging birds from inhabiting a particular area.

    4. The worst risk to animal and bird life is from destruction of habitat (homes and food). That is what the Spectator is trying to get us to do in this country – allow in millions more immigrants in a never-ending process that has already produced overpopulation in London and the South East with consequent destruction of habitat.

    5. Wind turbines help preserve birds because they are a barrier to human habitation in the vicinity of the turbines. While all forms of energy production create some envirionmental damage, the damage caused is far less that with other forms e.g. no radiation, not much area of land taken up (from the animals’ point of view), no acidifcation of rivers, no aerial pollution, not much carbon release etc.


    • the viceroy’s gin

      Again, congratulations to you on your newly found zoological practice, now being engaged alongside your previous power engineering practice.

      How do you do it?

      • Daniel Maris

        I explained on the other thread.

        • the viceroy’s gin

          No, you didn’t explain anything. Just mindless assertions, as usual.

          • Daniel Maris

            That’s a cheek, coming from someone who supports the notion that 3 bird deaths per turbine per annum is an ecological disaster.

            • the viceroy’s gin

              No, actually, that’s your fantasy, much like your other blathering assertions.

              • Daniel Maris

                If you, author of –

                “The difference being that the tabby lovers aren’t stealing cash from the people of the land, to subsidize their tabbies, as you windmill
                fetishist envirowhackos are doing.”

                …are now issuing a “politician’s clarification” then I am pleased to receive it on the basis that you too think the number of birds killed by wind turbines is, as the US Dept of Agriculture say, “biologically insignificant” – and I apologise for any misinterpretation of your comment on my part.

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  I’m not “issuing” anything, son.

                  I’m pointing out that you’re a blathering fantasist, ignorant and uneducated.

                • Daniel Maris

                  What did you major in – Invariable Insults?

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  Whatever it is, it’s nothing you’d be able to understand, as you’re ignorant and uneducated.

                • Daniel Maris

                  OK, Advanced Invariable Insults Studies it is.

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  Again, whatever it is, you’re incapable of understanding it, because you’re ignorant and uneducated.

                  Oh, and pointing out that you’re ignorant and uneducated isn’t an “insult”, son. It’s simple recorded observation. You’d understand that if you weren’t ignorant and uneducated.

                • Daniel Maris

                  O Wise One – Isn’t senseless, bovine repetition a sign of being ignorant and uneducated? Or is it a kind of secret mantra that accesses the divine? “Ignorant and uneducated”.

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  It might be, or it might not be, but you’d never be able to understand it either way…. because you’re ignorant and uneducated.

    • Roland Butter

      Point 6 is the strongest point of all.

      • Daniel Maris

        I’m sure there is a point 6 but even wind enthusiasts run out of wind sometimes.

        • the viceroy’s gin

          Not you, apparently.

          • Daniel Maris

            I feel a moral obligation to educate you all. I don’t do it out of pleasure. :)

            • the viceroy’s gin

              You don’t do it because you’re ignorant and uneducated.

              • Daniel Maris

                If I’m ignorant and uneducated that must mean you’re whistling away and smiling to yourself while shovelling sh*t. :)

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  No, I’m pointing out that you’re ignorant and uneducated, among other facts and data points.

                • Daniel Maris

                  Yes but you’re smiling to yourself, whistling away and shovelling sh*t while you do. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Someone has to do it.

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  Well, the voices in your head may tell you that, I suppose.

                  Pity the voices can’t tell you how not to be ignorant and uneducated.

                • Daniel Maris

                  I’m sorry…my apologies…

                  I meant to add:

                  “…while periodically pausing to scratch your a*se”.

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  …you mean, the voices meant to tell you?

                • Daniel Maris

                  No, it (the hearing of voices) is clearly a symptomatic indication of schizoid illnesses that one thinks someone is commanding or advising you to do something. In my case the observation was fully willed by my own superego, or self-conscious thought processes if you prefer. Of course, I would not expect someone who failed their GCE in Woodwork to understand this distinction (not a particularly fine one – but, I fully understand that perhaps for you it is something about which you will need to cogitate awhile).

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  Did the voices lead you on this fresh new trail of blather?

            • Latimer Alder

              I think you’d do better to educate yourself first, before embarking on such an ambitious project.

              And it would be a good idea to drop the purely assertive style. It is far more persuasive if you give some evidence as well to back up your sweeping generalisations.

    • starfish

      1. Difficult to compare really as most of the fixed costs for onshore wind seem to mysteriously disappear during ‘comparisons’. As do recurring maintenance costs and amazingly optimistic estimates of reliability, access to essential materials (rare earths etc)

      2.The point made was that onshore wind’s protagonists make claims concerning environmental friendliness with a strength that no-one else does, yet they are suspect.

      3. The point is that windpower is extending the problem into areas previously untouched. The cat population is not spreading as far as I ma aware so feline depredation is a constant. I suspect it is not a huge factor with migratory birds either – however windfarms on migratory routes to/from protected areas is an issue.

      4. I agree – so is onshore wind extending the problem?It cannot be making it better as it is going into areas previously relatively untouched

      5. Eh? Wind farms are artificial – their arrival, construction, connection to the grid, maintenance etc all have an environmental impact. Essentially you are saying building big artificial towers is better than housing – is it?

      The fact is that the main justifications for windpower are ludicrously shallow

      • Daniel Maris

        Starfish –

        1. What are you on about? Please refer to proper levelised published by a reputable organisation. The studies undertaken by organisation like the DOE in the USA do take account of ongoing maintenance costs. Maintenance costs for wind turbines are very low.

        2. They do so with good reason. The environmental damage caused by wind turbine is much smaller than most other energy sources. As we see with bird deaths, the number are “biologically insignificant” – though of course there may be issue at particular sites.

        3. What problem? Do some research on the cat population – you’ll find it has increased: *ttp:// And of course the growth in human habitation in the uK means they are being introduced into areas where they were previously scarcely present.

        4. It is a matter of choice. It is something to be discussed and decided on . I think when you look at the benefits overall it is a sensible way forward but I don’t expect everyone to agree me. But I think opposition is often motivated by (a) dislike of the visual intrusion rather than any ecological damage and (b) envy of rich landowners who benefit greatly from turbine rents.

        5. Yes, as the US Dept of Agricultural report states, bird deaths in the range of 3 per turbine per annum are biologically insignificant. Once you have new housing in an area you (usually) have tremendous loss of habitat, particularly if it was previously wooded, hedgerowed, marsh etc. That equates to a huge and permanent loss of bird population as their food sources are removed to be replaced by brick, slate, tarmac and tended lawns.

        • Bishop Hill


          Levelised costs are grossly misleading when applied to intermittent power sources.

          Please stop it.

          • Daniel Maris

            Bishop Hill,

            I took a look at that. I really couldn’t take it seriously after I read: “Wind, solar and other renewable generating technologies supply electricity “intermittently” ”

            Does he really think other renewable generating technologies – hydroelectricity, energy from waste, sea current, tidal and biofuels – are “intermittent”? If he does I am not impressed at all.

            As for his comments on pricing I would say this: the USA is a v. different place from the Europe with a fairly ramshackle system of regional grids that has grown up over time. In Europe probably something like 250 million people live within a circle drawn with a radius of 300 miles around Cologne. It’s pretty compact really with an existing integrated grid (we are for instance linked to France). Our grid structure was already a lot better than the USA. I wouldn’t be surprised if they had more on-costs in adapting to wind, but on the other hand their energy grid systems need updating in any case so you can’t load all the costs on to renewables.

            Another thing I would say is that that sort of pricing theory is really pretty irrelevant. What counts I think is the total cost of the total system spread over a long timeframe of 20-30 years. We can have an argument over whether transferring to a green energy system (as Germany – the greatest industrial power in Europe – is doing) can be justified economically in terms of an overall cost benefit analysis including the impact on consumers’ energy bill. But the fancy pricing theory won’t take you v. far.

            • Latimer Alder

              You’d have done a lot better if you had tried to read and comprehend the entire section, rather than giving up after just half a sentence.

              For the benefit of other readers whose attention span is greater than yours, here is the whole discussion of an important characteristic of renewable technologies.

              ‘Wind, solar and other renewable generating technologies supply electricity “intermittently” and are not economically dispatchable in the traditional sense.

              Electricity produced by these technologies is driven by wind speed, wind direction, cloud cover, haze, and other weather characteristics. As a result, they cannot be controlled or economically dispatched by system operators based on traditional economic criteria.

              The output of intermittent generating units can vary widely from day to day, hour to hour or minute to minute, depending on the technology and variations in attributes of the renewable resource that drives the generation of electricity at a point in time at a particular location.

              Rather than controlling how much and when an intermittent generator is dispatched, system operators must respond to what comes at them by calling on generators that are dispatchable to maintain network frequency and other grid reliability parameters’

              Seems to me that he is making a very reasonable point. Most of our uses of electricity require a constant predictable supply available at the plug. But renewables do not provide such a supply. So some form of balancing will always have to be there. Uncontroversial and unarguable stuff. Pity that it seems to be beyond D. Maris’s comprehension level.

              • Daniel Maris

                Latimer –

                Typical distortion tactics. I read it in detail for several pages, but that howler did put me off investing more time in it. However, I did scan through to the end.

                The point being made by you is well known. Its implications are disputed. However, teh point of that paper is not about intermittency (leaving aside the author’s wildly inaccurate statement about all renewables being intermittent). It is about how you price for that. On that I think he’s talking a load of old mumbo jumbo.

                The overall point about intermittency will gradually be addressed through technological improvements and planning – e.g. better storage being an important element.

                • Latimer Alder

                  I’m trying to think of a ‘renewable’ source that isn’t intermittent. Let’s try.

                  Wind – nope

                  Solar – not much good at night

                  Hydro – not so good in drought

                  Tides – height varies through the year

                  and in all cases the amount of power generated is outwith the grid operator’s control (dispatchable). Seems that he has a pretty good argument to me.

                  But having argued that he is wrong, you then concede the point anyway with your remark that ‘better storage being an important element’. I agree entirely that if we had a good way of storing and retrieving large quantities (10,000s of GWh) of electricity then the concerns about intermittency would be much reduced.

                  But we haven’t…and there are absolutely no technologies on the radar that are going to get anywhere near the level of storage that would be needed. In the UK the best we have is Dinorwic- which can opearate at 1.8 GW for 6 hours only before needing refilling. And that is it. Total about 10GWh…- about 0.1% of what we would need. You’d have to somehow find another 1000 sites just like Dinorwic, and have the ability to build another 1000 schemes before you were in with a prayer. It ain’t going to happen.

                  We may both wish that it was otherwise but it is simply wishful thinking on your part to think that the wish will somehow become the deed. Find the answer and you will make your fortune.

                  As to your opinion that the paper is spouting ‘mumbo jumbo’, I fear that you;ll have to come up with a rather fuller critique than that before I take your word for it rather than that of Professor Joskow – who seems to have had a lengthy and distinguished career as an economist


                • Daniel Maris

                  Well no energy source is non-intermittent in that sense. Nuclear, coal and gas plants all need to be shut down for maintenance, sometimes planned, but often unplanned. Remember the French summer when several nuclear had to close at teh same time? Remember the coal strike in the UK? Remember Russia’s threats to close off gas pipeline? Remember the Japanese tsunami (which wind turbines survived in tact)?

                  Methane from energy from waste plants can be stored. Germany has already open a plant using solar (and wind I think) to produce methane (after breaking down water and combining with CO2 from industrial processes).

                  But – and this is v. important – no one is talking about a 100% wind based system. Probably with current technology and a continental grid I would guess 30-35% is the upper limit. WIth new storage techniques that can probably be lifted to around 50-60% in the next couple of decades.

                  Look at how the Germans do it would be my advice.

                • Latimer Alder

                  Thank you for your advice.

                  I will waste no time in taking it.

                  JFI methane is also the major component of natural gas.

                • Daniel Maris

                  Yes, I am fully aware methane equates to natural gas. That’s why using methane manufacture as a method of storage is so good – because you already have the infrastructure in place – it can be mixed in with natural gas.

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  …is that in your vast experience as an engineer, not only in power engineering but chemical and process engineering?

                • Latimer Alder

                  Reality check.

                  Since your aversion to ‘squiggles’ means that you don’t post any links to your sources, I did it myself.

                  I think the methane plant you refer to may be the Audi plant at Wertle. But – as ever – you overstate the case. The plant is not yet ‘open’. It has (according to the press release below) only ‘completed construction’.

                  And any engineer will tell you that those are very different things. We have yet to see if it can actually be made to work and what the economics of it in practice are. Interestingly the press release tells us how much energy will be going into the plant, but says nothing about the amount coming out…(the conversion efficiency), so whether this is a good deal or just a lab curiosity remains unknown.


                • Latimer Alder


                  I checked back through the documents and it is indeed possible to estimate the conversion efficiency. By my calculations (available on request) it is about 3%.

                  Or to rephrase it…for every thirty units of energy put in one end, you get about one unit back from burning the resultant methane. All the rest goes into warming the planet.

                  Seems to me that this plant is more of a sop to German greenery

                  ‘ The company plans for the e-gas to offset emissions from its new
                  range of compressed natural gas (CNG)-fuelled Audi A3 Sportback vehicles to be released next year’

                  than a serious contender for a new energy supply source.

                • Mary Pearson

                  I’ve seen how the Danes and Germans do it…… guess you visited the countryside around where the wind turbines are now situated both before and after the developments? The death of the tourist industry in those places.
                  Drive to Edinburgh up the A68 and see how the wind turbines creep ever closer to the road and how the flicker affects the light. At certain times and day and light conditions the road is downright dangerous. I’m not anti-turbines but they need to be sited with due care and consideration.

                • Mary Pearson

                  The Danes sell their excess electricity to Norway. Norway uses this electricity to pump water to the top reservoirs of their hydo-systems so electricity can be produced at peak times. However it has to be remembered that there is a huge loss of energy in the conversion process. Without looking up the facts and figures for this I am not going to quote anything. I was an academic researcher in the 1970s and many of my published papers (ground breaking at the time) form the basis of today’s research. Storage has improved but is still nowhere near good enough.

                  I am neither pro or anti-wind turbines. I object to half truths and misleading “facts” and “figures” from both sides. “A half truth is a full lie.”

            • FrenchNewsonlin

              Daniel: As per several previous exchanges on this please note that Germany is currently investing assiduously in coal- fired generation. Presumably its industrialists are no longer convinced wind is the way to go. Here is some data on recent such developments: EVONIK, Walsum (Duisburg), 800 MW black coal (2010) – RWE, Neurath (Cologne), 2 x 800 MW lignite (2009) – RWE Westfalen (Dortmund-Hamm, 2 x 800 MW black coal (2011) – EON Datteln (Dortmund), 1 x 1100 MW (!) black coal (2011) – ENBW Karlsruhe, 1 x 800 MW black coal (2011) – Trianel (municipality) Lünen, 1 x 800 MW black coal (2011) – Vattenfall Moorburg (Hamburg), 2 x 800 MW black coal (2011) – Vattenfall Boxberg (close to Leipzig), 1 x 800 MW lignite (2011).

              • Daniel Maris

                You might have a point if you could demonstrate the German Government’s policy was “Switch to entirely wind energy-generated electricity from tomorrow.” As it isn’t, you don’t have a point.

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  And you have not understanding of any of these issues, as you’re ignorant and uneducated.

    • Time Traveller

      Daniel – I think the comparison with nuclear is disingenuous. Nuclear is a proven technology that provides energy security. What we’re doing is throwing vast amounts of money at a greenie wet dream that has no hope of providing reliable power, let alone energy security.

      As for the risk of a nuclear catastrophe, I would suggest that in its civil form, nuclear power has claimed far fewer lives than has fuel poverty.

      • Daniel Maris

        Time Traveller,

        Well, firstly I would suggest you go ask the Japanese whether nuclear fission energy has delivered on energy security.

        Secondly, I suggest you take it up with Germany, largest industrial nation in Europe, who are fully committed to a 100% green energy programme. Perhaps you can explain to them how you know better than them. :)

        Nuclear energy catastrophe isn’t just about the number of people killed. It is about the dislocation to local economies – loss of employment, housing, agricultural land etc. – all of which we are seeing in Japan on a grand scale at the moment.

        As for fuel poverty – that is easily eradicated through taxes or subsidies if you are sincerely concerned about that (which I very much doubt you are).

        • Latimer Alder

          Germany ‘fully committed to a 100% green energy programme’?

          Not according to Angela Merkel. Unless you have redefined coal-fired power stations as ‘green’.

          Germany’s commitment is to 100% phase-out of nuclear. That is not the same thing at all.

          • Daniel Maris


            No the target is for an 85% reduction in emissions and it is proposed by the Federal Environment Agency this can be achieved through 100% green energy electricity generation.

            • Latimer Alder

              Your link is unreadable. Please resubmit it.

              But if I am right in my assumption about what it says is correct, then you really should take some classes in basic comprehension.

              A proposal by a government agency that a target could be achieved by 100% green electricity generation is not at all the same thing as ‘a full commitment to a 100% green energy programme’,

              Either you do understand the difference and are being mendacious in what you write, or you should ponder the meaning of the saying ‘ a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush’.

              • Daniel Maris

                You have to put the h in front – I thought most people understood that. It saves the system making you go through hoops to post with a link.

                • Latimer Alder

                  I had no problems posting my links above complete with the ‘h’.

                  But removing the ‘h’ means that firefox no longer interprets the phrase as a hyperlink…just as text. And so the right hand truncation to ‘….’ means that the rest of the link is lost. Hence your citation is meaningless.

                  On a brief survey of other Spectator blogs I can find no other commentator that indulges in the practice that you do. All others, like ,me, use the conventional ‘http’ prefix seemingly without trouble.

                  As so often, it seems that you are ploughing a lonely and highly idiosyncratic furrow..But this one renders your contributions largely useless..

                • Daniel Maris

                  I’ve seen it here and on many other sites. I don’t like having to interpret those funny squiggles they send you if you post a link.

                • Latimer Alder

                  Poor dear. Must be very difficult for you. Ahhhh. I wonder how the rest of us manage to get over this minor obstacle?

                  But the consequence of your aversion is that we can’t read your links. Which renders your already weak arguments even less persuasive.

                • Daniel Maris

                  I have to make about twenty key strokes against your one. It’s called efficiency about which I thought you were concerned.

                • Latimer Alder

                  How you go about making your daft comments is of no concern to me.

                  But if you concentrated more on the content, not the method, your contributions might be more valuable.

                • Daniel Maris

                  When you’ve actually shown you have valid comments to make about birds, bats or pricing of energy, no doubt I’ll take notice.

                  So far this thread has exposed the wild imaginings of Delingpole to be completely inaccurate. Not that he ever came back to debate the points he made (typical of his style – “never apologise, never explain” is the watchword of the arriviste). And it has demonstrated that your quoted economics guru doesn’t even understand that lots of renewable energy sources are non-intermittent.

                • Latimer Alder

                  I keep on wondering about these ‘renewable energy sources’ that aren’t intermittent and non-dispatchable.

                  I disposed of wind, tide, hydro and solar above. So which ones are left that are not intermittent and are dispatchable?

                  You claim that there are ‘lots’ of them.

                  Which in particular would you care to draw to our attention?

                  Or should we be looking in the ‘wishful thinking’ category – along with the huge electricity storage schemes that you told us about a day or so ago? How are they coming along btw?

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  How is it you could identify “valid comments” on the subject matter?

                  You’re completely ignorant and uneducated on the entirety of it.

              • Daniel Maris

                As for “mendacity” – I often read that Germany are committed to a 100% green energy programme for electricity. It might be wrong…I would agree it might not be written in stone, but it seems to be an aspiration and all the figures I have seen are suggesting Germany is overshooting its targets, so it is quite likely to be achieved, or something close to that.

                • Latimer Alder

                  Where do you ‘quite often read’ these things? And where do you see that Germany are ‘overshooting their targets’? I have never seen such articles.

                  But I have seen plenty of commentary that the German Energiwende programme is in deep s*it. Because of escalating consumer prices, supply outages and a complete lack of planning – there are few liks between the wind supply in the North to the electricity consumers in the South it seems likely that the grid will suffer increasing collapses and users will see more frequent power cuts.. Already Poland and Czechoslovakia are taking aggressive technical measures to isolate their grids from Germany, so that the contagion cannot be spread to them.

                  German electricity prices are already among the highest in Europe and even the EU is urging it to reduce the subsidies it pays for ‘renewables’.


                  Maybe the stuff you read tries to paint the German experiment as an unqualified success striding steadily towards some green utopia of happy smiling people basking in the whirr of the windmills. But they’re pulling the wool over your eyes. Time to expand your reading list.

                • Daniel Maris

                  Latimer –

                  When I search on google for “Germany aims for 100% renewable energy” I get 3.8 million results, so I don’t think you can pretend I came up with this myself.

                  I’ve seen plenty of comment about Germany’s energy policy being in deep doo-doo too – and whenever I check out the comments they turn out to be alarmist and misinformed.

                  I am happy to leave the Germans to prove you wrong, though it may take a few years of course. But I would note that already over 10% of Germany’s energy comes from wind energy.

                • Daniel Maris

                  Sorry I meant electricity, not energy.

                • Latimer Alder

                  And of your 3.8 million hits on

                  ‘Germany aims for 100% renewable energy’, how many contain the exact phrase?


                  You need to look at the articles behind it, not just the number of hits. Google is telling you how many articles contain some part of the phrase. The leading artcile there is actually about Scotland’s aim. Because Germany is mentioned in a table, it pops up in the hit list. But that doesn’t mean Germany is aiming for 100% renewables.

                  A few more examples

                  I get 720,000 hits for ‘Qatar aims for 100% renewable energy’, 2.2 million for ‘USA aims for 100% renewable energy’. Since Qatar only exists because of oil, and USA is benefiting greatly from the boom on shale gas (fracking), we know that these are not their policies.

                  Amusingly I get even more (72 million ) for ‘Daniel Maris is an idiot’

                  So yes, I can accuse you of ‘coming up with this yourself’. What you have misinterpreted is an artefact of Google searching, not a reflection of reality – did you really think that there have been 3.8 million articles written (one for every 20th German person) about their renewables target?

                  You clearly don’t understand the research tools you are using.

                  Suggest that you educate yourself first, then draw the conclusions afterwards….not the other way round..

        • Time Traveller

          Daniel – Defining energy security only in terms of a facility’s ability to withstand a natural event greater than anticipated in the design specification would make the concept wholly unattainable by any means. How well do you think a wind farm would have survived in such circumstances?

          It seems to me that the green movement survives on shifting definitions. You’ve provided another example in your third paragraph about nuclear energy catastrophe. If you go back to your original post, you’ll note that my response was based on the case you were making which was for ‘deadly’ nuclear catastrophe. Your new, wider argument could apply to any catastrophe: indeed, it applies to Fukushima where the agent of catastrophe was natural – not nuclear.

          Latimer Alder has already responded in respect of Germany but amplifying my previous point, I note that you seem to have redefined ‘green’.

          Your last paragraph…….! As somebody living in fuel poverty (as defined by DECC), I don’t want subsidies. I want an honest energy policy that enables me to simply pay for the energy that I need, when I need it, rather than paying through the nose for a useless social engineering project that blights lives and the environment in order to transfer more wealth to the privileged few.

          • Daniel Maris

            The wind turbines along Japan’s coast survive the tsunami and carried on working.

            We can have an argument over the price of electricity and gas. I agree fuel poverty is a serious issue that needs to be addressed. However, there is no long term security in fossil fuel prices. They are v. erractic and with the rest of the world economy growing at 3-4% per annum there is going to be huge, huge demand for fossil fuels over the coming decades. It’s a matter of judgement. My call would be that onshore wind is a v. sensible choice as part of a mix designed to produce reasonably priced energy independently.

            • the viceroy’s gin

              Fair enough. If you envirowhackos pay for it, and leave everybody else’s pocketbook out of it, you can have all the windmills you want.

            • Time Traveller

              Daniel – I stand corrected in respect of Japan’s turbines. Nevertheless, given that we have to turn off our own turbines – and handsomely compensate their owners when we do so – during times of high wind speeds, I think my argument about not determining energy security on the basis of extreme events remains valid.

    • Latimer Alder

      I’m getting just a wee bit bored of hearing about the ‘risk of deadly nuclear catastrophes’.

      Even after Mother Gaia threw an earthquake and a tsunami at a power plant, she didn’t manage to provoke a ‘deadly nuclear catastrophe’ of any major scale.

      So under what conditions would you expect such a catastrophe to occur?

      • Daniel Maris

        We were discussing risk. There is ultimately a low to moderate risk of a terrorist attack (from within or without) at a nuclear plant which would entail high risk of cataclysmic damage. That’s why states devote many millons of pounds every year to making sure it doesn’t happen.

        It is not so much the short term deaths but rather the long term impact from radiation release that is the issue. That could cause thousands of deaths but much worse would be the effect on housing, employment and agricultural land in a small country like the UK.

        When they site a nuclear plant next to a city in the UK I’ll believe they are safe. (Not gonna happen).

        • Latimer Alder

          So you’d like to swap your initial statement

          ‘risk of deadly nuclear catastrophes’


          ‘effect on agricultural land’.?

          Fine with me. But it hardly has the Doomsday ring to it, does it.

          I can hardly imagine members of neo-CND wandering to Aldermaston with chants of

          ‘What don’t we want?’


          ‘Why don’t we want it?’
          ‘Because of the effect on agricultural land, housing and employment!’

          Not really the spirit to get the duffel coats off the peg

          • Daniel Maris

            No, there is a risk of nuclear catastrophe e.g terrorists successfully flying a jumbo at a reactor core or successfully release radiation as a result of internal sabotage. There is also the risk highly poisonous material (radioactive) can be stolen and then used to kill people in crowded urban areas and make important urban areas uninhabitable.

            • d knight


              such threats have been considered and actively designed for

              any other myths you wish to peddle?

              • Daniel Maris

                How can threats that have been designed for not be real risks – as I said. I think you need to consult your dictionary on the difference between threats, risk, preparation, high, low, moderate etc. So you’re saying there is no possibility anywhere of radioactive material ever being stolen by an internal saboteur. I suppose those banks who lost billions through rogue traders also thought there was chance of such trading taking place.

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  I think you need to educate yourself, before lecturing somebody else.
                  Your ignorance and lack of education is too glaring to permit such.

                • Daniel Maris

                  Sadly your inability to distinguish between the phrase “designed for” and “eliminated” is an indication of your lack of cognitive ability. According to Piaget and Vygotsky this sort of distinction ought to be appreciated in individuals around puberty. I don’t blame you personally. In the general population such deficiencies have been found to result from genetic defects or developmental problems (including in the placenta as a result of foetal alcohol syndrome) – it is rather absurd to assign moral blame to such deficiencies. One hopes that in the fullness of time, medical science will find remedies for such defects but in the interim all that can be done is for those operating on a higher cognitive level to offer guidance and support to those poor unfortunates (hence my contributions here).

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  Amusingly enough, you’ve plumbed fresh depths of blathering assertion, ignorantly and uneducatedly plumbed to be sure.

        • Mary Pearson

          There is a nuclear power plant on Teesside (massive population) and on the outskirts of Edinburgh. So it already has happened. You need to check your facts before posting inane comments.

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