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The Avian and Wildlife Costs of Fossil Fuels and Nuclear Power

Journal of Integrative Environmental Sciences vol. 9, no. 4, December 2012, 255-278

Vermont Law School Research Paper No. 04-13

26 Pages Posted: 9 Jan 2013  

Benjamin K. Sovacool

Vermont Law School

Date Written: June 30, 2012

Abstract

Environmentalists and environmental scientists have criticized wind energy in various forums for its negative impacts on wildlife, especially birds. This article highlights that nuclear power and fossil-fuelled power systems have a host of environmental and wildlife costs as well, particularly for birds. Therefore, as a low-emission, low-pollution energy source, the wider use of wind energy can save wildlife and birds as it displaces these more harmful sources of electricity. The paper provides two examples: one relates to a calculation of avian fatalities across wind electricity, fossil-fueled, and nuclear power systems in the entire United States. It estimates that wind farms are responsible for roughly 0.27 avian fatalities per gigawatt-hour (GWh) of electricity while nuclear power plants involve 0.6 fatalities per GWh and fossil-fueled power stations are responsible for about 9.4 fatalities per GWh. Within the uncertainties of the data used, the estimate means that wind farm-related avian fatalities equated to approximately 46,000 birds in the United States in 2009, but nuclear power plants killed about 460,000 and fossil-fueled power plants 24 million. A second example summarizes the wildlife benefits from a 580-MW wind farm at Altamont Pass in California, a facility that some have criticized for its impact on wildlife. The paper lastly highlights other social and environmental benefits to wind farms compared to other sources of electricity and energy.

Keywords: wind power, avian mortality, wind turbines

Suggested Citation

Sovacool, Benjamin K., The Avian and Wildlife Costs of Fossil Fuels and Nuclear Power (June 30, 2012). Journal of Integrative Environmental Sciences vol. 9, no. 4, December 2012, 255-278; Vermont Law School Research Paper No. 04-13. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2198024

Benjamin K. Sovacool (Contact Author)

Vermont Law School ( email )

68 North Windsor Street
P.O. Box 60
South Royalton, VT 05068
United States

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