Bird Brained: Grand Offshore Wind Power Plans Threaten Endangered Species Wipeout

Planting 300 tonne whirling juggernauts out to sea has a variety of endangered species on a greasy path to extinction. One of them is the South-east Australia’s Orange-bellied Parrot – a timid and migratory species – at last count, its remaining numbers would struggle to fill a symphony orchestra.

The North Atlantic Right Whale’s numbers are little better.

The future existence of both parrot and whale is threatened by industrial wind turbines: 60m blades with their tips travelling at over 350 kph make short work of any bird on the wing; the insidious low-frequency noise and vibration generated rattles the nerves of all brands of cetaceans, over time causing deafness and, thereby, messing with their ability to navigate using underwater sound.

The modern eco-zealot continues to parrot the line about wind power saving the planet, but the inconvenient truth about the monstrous harm these things cause to all manner of creatures is becoming harder for real environmentalists to ignore.

Here’s Robert Bryce with a whale a story on that score.

Big Wins for Parrots and Whales as Wind Projects in Tasmania and Massachusetts Are Scuttled
Real Clear Energy
Robert Bryce
23 December 2022

There’s one inescapable truth about the headlong rush to cover vast swaths of our countryside and oceans with 600-foot-high wind turbines: the more turbines that get built, the more wildlife will be harmed or killed. And no amount of propaganda — and there’s a veritable tsunami of that coming from the alt-energy crowd — can change that fact.

That’s why people who really care about the environment — and our wildlife — should be pleased by the recent news that two large wind projects are likely to be canceled. If that happens, it will be positive news for two critically endangered species: the Orange-bellied Parrot and the North Atlantic Right Whale.

Let’s start with Orange-bellied Parrot (species name: Neophema chrysogaster). A few days ago, the Australian government gave approval to a huge (900 megawatt) wind project on Robbins Island, which is located north of Tasmania. But the approval requires the project to be completely shut down for five months of the year due to concerns that the wind turbines on the project will kill Orange-bellied Parrots, which migrate from Tasmania to Australia. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation quoted an official with the company that is proposing the project, ACEN Australia, as saying the requirement to shut down the facility for nearly half of the year was “completely unexpected” and that the company would “need to consider our options going forward.”

The Orange-bellied Parrot is endemic to southern Australia and is reportedly one of only three parrot species that migrate. It breeds in Tasmania and flies north to winter on the southern coast of mainland Australia. According to Wikipedia, it is rated as “critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Endangered Species.”

If the government’s five-month shutdown rule stays in place, it should doom the Robbins Island project. Most wind facilities operate at about a 33% capacity factor. Shutting down for five months per year will reduce that number to about 19%. Given the ongoing cost increases for steel, copper, and other commodities, as well as the soaring cost of capital, it will be very difficult, if not impossible, for the project developer to get financing for the deal.

Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, a proposed 1,200-megawatt offshore wind project known as Commonwealth Wind, is on life support after Avangrid, the Spanish company that had been planning to build the project, pulled out of the project earlier this week. The company claims the power purchase agreements now in place aren’t lucrative enough to cover the rising cost of commodities and capital. Avangrid’s move is positive for wildlife because the Commonwealth Wind project sits right in the middle of habitat for the North Atlantic Right Whale (species name: Eubalaena glacialis) of which there are only about 340 left on the planet.

Unfortunately for the whales, America’s biggest NGOs including the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, and others, have been eerily silent about the negative impact that offshore wind development will have on the super-rare cetacean. Over the past decade or so, the North Atlantic Right Whale’s population has plunged by about 26% and there are only about 70 breeding females left.

Imagine for a moment what the Sierra Clubbers would be saying if the oil industry tried to get permits for a few offshore drilling platforms in the middle of whale habitat. The hue and cry would be audible from here to Nova Scotia. But because of the delusion that offshore wind energy is somehow “green” or “clean,” the only noise coming from the big alt-energy NGOs is, well, crickets.

Fortunately, federal wildlife officials are speaking out for whales. On May 13, Sean Hayes, the chief of the protected species branch at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Northeast Fisheries Science Center, sent a letter to the lead biologist at the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, warning him about the deadly effect offshore wind will have on whales. Hayes proposed that a buffer zone be established around the whales’ habitat to protect them from the turbines. He wrote that “Additional noise, vessel traffic and habitat modifications due to offshore wind development will likely cause added stress that could result in additional population consequences to a species that is already experiencing rapid decline.” He continued, saying that disturbance to the North Atlantic Right Whales’ foraging areas “could have population-level effects on an already endangered and stressed species. The right whale population is food resource-limited and generally in poor body condition. Right whales are chronically stressed from food limitations, entanglement, sub-lethal vessel strikes, and noise. Displacement from a prime portion of their only winter foraging grounds due to disruptions in forage availability/distribution and/or exposure to other stressors (e.g., increased vessel traffic) could have extremely detrimental energetic effects, resulting in reduced calving success.”

But that’s not even the strongest part of the letter. Hayes also said that the “oceanographic impacts from installed and operating turbines cannot be mitigated for the 30-year lifespan of the project, unless they are decommissioned.”

Read that again: the impacts of the turbines “cannot be mitigated.” In other words, if the Biden administration continues its push for 30,000 megawatts of offshore wind capacity – a plan that will require installing hundreds of offshore platforms smack in the middle of North Atlantic Right Whale habitat – this iconic species will continue its precipitous decline.

Several groups have filed lawsuits against the federal government seeking to block the growth of offshore wind energy on the East Coast, including the Responsible Offshore Development Alliance (RODA), a national coalition of “fishery-dependent businesses and associations.” Last month, RODA filed a motion for summary judgment in its lawsuit against the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and other federal agencies, for their approval of an offshore wind project called Vineyard Wind 1. In a November 14 press release, the group said the federal approval of an offshore wind project known as Vineyard Wind was “arbitrary, capricious, and contrary to law,” and that the approval violated several federal statutes “including the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, National Environmental Policy Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act, Merchant Marine Act, and Administrative Procedure Act.”

Whales and lawsuits aren’t the only problems facing offshore wind projects. There’s also the sticky issue of bringing the electricity from offshore wind turbines ashore. That requires big power lines. And communities up and down the East Coast are not eager to have those power lines come through their neighborhoods. On Monday, the town of Falmouth, Massachusetts dealt the proposed 2,400-megawatt Mayflower Wind project a big setback. Here’s how Noelle Annonen of Falmouth’s The Enterprise newspaper reported it:  “The Falmouth Select Board voted 4-1 on Monday, December 19, to deny Mayflower Wind Energy LLC access to town property to study landfall sites for electric cables connecting its proposed offshore windfarm to the electrical grid.”

The Mayflower project would cover a huge swath of ocean about 20 miles south of Nantucket. Annonen reported that residents of Falmouth “packed the select board meeting room…Several voiced opposition during public comment, citing damage to the neighborhood and small businesses, harm to the public park that Mayflower Wind selects for landfall and the loss of the neighborhood’s aesthetic appeal.”

The punchline here is obvious and as usual, it requires us to follow the money. The Inflation Reduction Act passed earlier this year by Congress allocates an additional  $64.7 billion for the Investment Tax Credit, which offshore wind developers can use to help finance their projects. It gives offshore developers a 30% tax credit. Massachusetts also gives huge tax credits to offshore wind developers.

Thus, it’s no surprise that numerous big corporations — many of them foreign companies like Avangrid, Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, Britain’s BP, Norway’s Equinor, and Denmark’s Ørsted — are all pushing to develop thousands of megawatts of offshore wind capacity. And if their projects harm whales, or local communities don’t want power lines cutting through their neighborhoods, well, those are just the costs that must be paid for the “energy transition.”

I’ll conclude with a line I’ve used before: the only thing dumber than onshore wind energy is offshore wind energy.
Real Clear Energy

Another endangered creature on the wind industry’s hit list.

3 thoughts on “Bird Brained: Grand Offshore Wind Power Plans Threaten Endangered Species Wipeout

  1. Wind turbines have put many species on a fast track to extinction. But propaganda and decades of research fraud, have convinced many these criminals are saving the world.

  2. These wind turbines need steel – how do you make steel from wind and sunshine ???!!! That, in itself, should give a clue to the uselessness of these ugly things which “grow” out our wonderful oceans !!

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