Iris Clelford for Whistlefish
We know that we must use less fossil fuels, to abate climate change. But in recent years, we’ve all year about millions of birds and bats being sliced apart with blades of turbines, and many others flying into the blades, as their navigation is affected. Today things are a bit better, but RSPB in particular has been criticised for allowing a big wind turbine to be built on its own headquarters, while telling off the government for building off-shore wind farms, near breeding sights on the Yorkshire coast.
The mountains and moors, the wild uplands, are to be staked out like vampires in the sun, their chests pierced with rows of five-hundred-foot wind turbines and associated access roads, masts, pylons, and wires. Paul Kingsnorth
Modern wind turbines like Vortex Bladeless appear to be much better, these have no blades at all. They are like tall silver ‘vibrating wands’ that generate electricity as they shake around. But there is never a perfect answer, as hydro-electric dams can block the migration of fish (and therefore harm creatures that feed on them). And birds and insects often get incinerated through intense sunlight from solar farms, especially when mirrors are used.
So what’s the problem? The problem is at source. Einstein once said that ‘you can’t solve a problem with the same mentality that created it’. All ‘proper environmentalists’ say that the issue is why we are using so much artificial energy in the first place. If we all lived simpler lives, then our need for energy would rapidly decrease. But that would massively decrease the profits of energy companies, and nobody owns the sun! Solivus is a new kind of simple solar panel, which features an arc shape that means you don’t have to install a whopping great panel on your roof.
This way of thinking has many fans, including ecological writers Satish Kumar and Paul Kingsnorth. Both are on the same page with this, that the answer is not to ‘solve climate change with technology’. Having said that, most people don’t live off-the-grid. The most eco-friendly way to get ‘green energy’ is likely to generate your own, as a small energy generator that doesn’t impact wildlife habitats is the way to go. But what about everyone else?
This is a ‘hold your nose and do what you can’ moment. All the main electricity companies are about profit and burning fossil fuels. The main green companies (bar one) all make energy from burning slurry from factory farms (including the green and non-profit ones). And the one that doesn’t (Ecotricity) is a huge fan of building more wind farms. The founder Dale Vince (he’s the one who bought a football club and turned it vegan) is in the midst of trying to create ‘grass gas’ as opposed to shale gas (fracking), by capturing carbon from harvested grass and straw.
The company has recently launched a mobile phone network Ecotalk, where profits are used to fund nature reserves for wildlife. If you have your own solar panel, you can sell back to them any excess energy, and receive money – they in turn need less wind power to produce energy for their customers.
The main reason why wind turbines kills birds is not always the blades themselves. It’s because governments and companies site turbines in areas where wildlife live – wetland habitats, sea colonies etc. This means roads are often built so that trucks can drive through wetlands and wildlife habitats to maintain the turbines. All the biology experts say that if you are going to use wind turbines, use small-scale ones, and site them in areas where native wildlife don’t live and breed.
If you work in this industry, read Renewable Energy and Wildlife Conservation by a wildlife biologist who has extensively studied all the clean energy options. He offers a balanced approach, to try to help both sides. Or for yourself, read Living Off the Grid. This is packed with tips to use less energy, even if you are not going to go full ‘off-grid’ yourself.