By: Brandi Young
On Aug. 13, Donald Trump visited the Royal Dutch Shell’s Petrochemical Complex in Pennsylvania to give a speech about energy. While there, he claimed that wind power destroys property and “kills all the birds”. He then went on to say that “Someday, the environmentalists are gonna tell us what’s going on with that,” so as an environmentalist I took it upon myself to accept his challenge and examine this claim.
Let’s start with the basics: what is wind power?
Wind power is the use of windmills and wind turbines to generate electricity through the utilization of kinetic energy. The wind works to push a rotor that spins a generator, which creates the electricity. This process is very similar to how airplanes and helicopters fly.
There are two types of wind turbines: horizontal and vertical axis turbines. The horizontal axis turbines are what people generally think about when they think of wind turbines. The three bladed rotor changes direction to face the wind. Vertical axis turbines are omni-directional, meaning they do not need to face the wind due to their design. They are able to catch the wind from any direction.
Wind turbines can also be categorized by where they are located. Land-based, offshore, and distributed are the three types of wind turbines. Land-based turbines are the most cost effective, but also fairly large. The largest turbines, though, are the offshore turbines, which can be taller than the Statue of Liberty, a monument that is 305 feet tall! The benefit of offshore turbines is their ability to catch the wind currents from the oceans. The last type of turbine is the distributed wind turbine, which is more for personal use. These are generally used for residential, agricultural and small commercial and industrial applications because they are smaller and produce less energy.
Do they kill birds?
The short answer? Yes. But, it’s important to examine how many birds are killed and if it is a significant enough amount to make us consider not building the turbines. Consider this: windows and cars kill birds, but does that mean we should stop the production of those? If your answer is no, then we need to look at this issue with the nuances it has. Many studies have been conducted on this exact topic. A National Research Council study in 2007 and a 2011 study by Kaldellis and Zafirakis stated that “the numbers of bird and bat deaths as a result of wind turbine structures is much smaller compared to mortalities due to collisions with buildings, towers, pesticides, communication towers, vehicles, power lines and other manmade installations.” The number of deaths caused by wind turbines is estimated between 214,000 and 368,000 birds annually, compared to the 6.8 million annual deaths caused by cell towers.
Why should we create more deaths?
I think we need to see if the pros outweigh the cons on this specific issue. Wind power creates no emissions and is renewable. This means that no harmful gases are being pumped into the air by having them up. It also means that there will be no shortage of energy from using the turbines. When you look at our current system, we primarily function off of nonrenewable energy, meaning that our supply will be depleted one day. The energy we use now also creates harmful greenhouse gases and causes various other forms of pollution. If we go back to the issue with bird deaths, frequent oil spills can lead to the death of 500,000 to 1 million birds. By eliminating these types of energies and moving towards wind power, we can not only reduce the amount of birds killed from energy sources, but also have a lower pollution impact.
Do wind turbines destroy property?
There have been no studies to conclude that wind turbines destroy property. There have been many think pieces surrounding the idea that wind farms can be created in deserts. This would mean little to no destruction of the natural environment would be done to build the turbines. Having specific places, like wind farms, would decrease the chance of “not in my backyard syndrome”, meaning that no wind turbines need to be near your private property! Depending on the area that is being studied will determine whether or not property values will change due to the presence of these wind turbines.
So, what do we do?
I say we build wind turbines! There are many positives to transitioning our energy sources to cleaner methods. And as far as the claims our President has made concerning the wind turbines, they’re just not true. Our duty as habitants on this planet is to make sure that we are taking care of it and providing a bright future for the next generation. Wind turbines are an excellent step towards a better world.
Cover photo courtesy of Pixabay