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Thu Sep 3, 2020, 10:28 PM

Bats and Wind Farms: The Role and Importance of the Baltic Sea Countries...and Biodiversity...

The paper I'll discuss in this thread is this one: Bats and Wind Farms: The Role and Importance of the Baltic Sea Countries in the European Context of Power Transition and Biodiversity Conservation (Simon P. Gaultier,* Anna S. Blomberg, Asko Ijäs, Ville Vasko, Eero J. Vesterinen, Jon E. Brommer, and Thomas M. Lilley,* Environ. Sci. Technol. 2020, 54, 17, 1038510398.)

This paper is open sourced under a creative commons license.

Bats of course, are getting a bad rap because of their unique immune systems which make them carriers for pathogenic virions . Still I rather regard them in the same way as I regard birds; which is to say they matter to me. I oppose their extinction.

Back in 2017, in this space, I appealed to a book in my personal library called Why Birds Matter. That post is here: A Minor Problem For Sound Science of the Effect of Offshore Windfarms on Seabirds: There Isn't Any.

I'm an old time environmentalist, in the John Muir tradition: I believe that environmentalism precludes, rather than encourages the transformation of pristine wilderness into industrial parks for energy production. Apparently my kind of environmentalism has gone out of fashion, but frankly, despite being somewhat unpopular, I'm not inclined to change my mind: I still agree with John Muir.

Denmark - bless their offshore oil and gas drilling souls - keeps a complete register of all its operating and all of its decommissioned wind turbines on land and at sea. It can be found here, in either English or Danish, your choice: Data for existing and deregistered facilities (end of 07 2020) - uploaded 31 August 2020

The most recent monthly production figures for all the operating wind turbines in Denmark - apparently over 6,200 of them as of this writing - in the period between June 20 and July 20, 30 days, was 1,307,912,614 kWh. This is approximately 4.708 petaJoules. This was a period of 30 days, and each day has 86,400 seconds in it. This means that average continuous power output, average, not (as is actually obtained) lumpy power output, was 1,817 MW for all the wind turbines in Denmark.

A typical nuclear power plant built on 1970's technology and still operating today - most nuclear power plants operate between 90% and 100% capacity utilization - will produce about 1000 MWe in a relatively small building. This means that two relatively small buildings containing nuclear reactors built on 1970's technology could produce reliably as much energy as all the wind turbines in Denmark, all 6,200+ of them.

...without killing seabirds...

...without killing bats...

Without requiring 6,200+ steel posts transported by huge trucks or huge barges powered by diesel fuel and made out of iron ore heated in coal fired blast furnaces containing coke made from coal by heating it coal fires.

Admittedly, my kind of environmentalism is out of fashion.

I only refer to the full article however. Again, it's open sourced. Anyone who gives a shit about bats, or birds, or about the fact that the trillions of dollars thrown at so called "renewable energy" has failed to address climate change, can read it for one's self.

Let me just say that I disagree with the first lines of the paper which read as follows:

Wind power is a valuable asset for energy transition as it is an efficient and sustainable way of producing energy.(1,2) Moreover, it generates near-zero greenhouse gas emissions during its operation in contrast to fossil fuels, and the approximate payback time for wind turbines in Europe is only a few months.(3,4) However, wind farms can have negative impacts on biodiversity, by destroying habitats during the construction phase and causing bird and bat mortality during the operating phase.(5,6) Bats (order: Chiroptera) are already facing numerous threats worldwide, and given their low reproductive output, it is vital to consider them in wind power development.(7,8)

Despite the first observations of wind turbines causing bat mortalities dating back to 1972,(9) serious questioning of the impacts of wind power on this taxa only emerged at the end of the twentieth century, with increasing observations of dead bats at wind farms.(10,11) Before this period, consideration of bats in wind farm projects was not mandatory, partly because of a general lack of knowledge on bats; thus, farms were constructed in areas that now would be considered inappropriate because of an associated high collision risk for bats. Research has now produced hundreds of studies, articles, and books on the phenomenon and its characteristics to help understand the impacts of wind farms on bats, and creating effective mitigation for current and future wind power.(12−18)
Our understanding of the topic is mainly based on studies from Central Europe and North America.(7,19) However, there is little knowledge on the impact of wind farms on bats in the European boreal biogeographic region, a part of the continent significantly different from Central Europe (Figure 1). Conditions vary with latitude but generally this region possesses shorter summers, less light, lower temperatures and precipitation, and a longer snow cover than the rest of Europe.(20,21) The European boreal biogeographic region is mostly covered by forests (60% of the area) or wetlands (8% in average, but it reaches 50% in the northern part of the region).(21)...

Wind power is not, in my view, "a valuable asset for energy transition." No "transition" is taking place. By appeal to raw data - something called "facts" - one can easily show that the wind and solar industries combined and including geothermal and tidal energy are growing much, much, much more slowly that the use of dangerous fossil fuels in this century.

The rate at which carbon dioxide, a dangerous fossil fuel waste, is accumulating in the atmosphere has reached as of 2020, a rate of 2.4 ppm/year, almost double the rate observed in the 20th century.

Nuclear plants built in the 1970's still operate. One can show that the lifetime of a wind turbine, by appeal to the aforementioned data tables at the Danish Energy Agency's wind turbine database, that the average lifetime of a Danish wind turbine is less than 18 years. This means, every twenty years, they all need to be replaced, on average, which is some measure, undoubtedly why they remain what they have always been; useless for the address of climate change; and useless for the arrest in the use of dangerous fossil fuels.

The paper concludes, after a fairly detailed discussion of the parameters connected with bat ecology and the industrialization of wild spaces to build "wind farms," thus:

The impacts of wind power on bats in Europe is a unique issue that requires more collaboration and standardization of research within the countries to resolve the problem because it affects the same species and sometimes the same populations across the continent. At the same time, Europe offers a great diversity of climate, biome, and habitats influencing species in a plethora of ways, resulting in significant differences in individuals of the same species whether they are located in Southwestern or Northeastern Europe. These differences need to be studied to obtain a better understanding of the various species or phenomena.
Unfortunately, the issue of the impacts of wind power on bats is still not entirely acknowledged in some countries, such as Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Russia, or Sweden. Data on bat biology and ecology are lacking and they are necessary if a comprehensive knowledge base is to be created with respect to the impacts of wind turbines and in order to solve the issue. A legal framework has also been delayed on the subject, most likely because of the missing data. All these requirements have to be addressed quickly because of the constant rise in the construction of wind farms in these countries, and above all, because of the important role Northeastern Europe has for bats.

Again, if interested, if "bats matter," you can read it yourself.

I trust you will enjoy the upcoming holiday weekend safely.

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Reply Bats and Wind Farms: The Role and Importance of the Baltic Sea Countries...and Biodiversity... (Original post)
NNadir Sep 3 OP
hunter Sep 4 #1
NNadir Sep 5 #2

Response to NNadir (Original post)

Fri Sep 4, 2020, 10:10 AM

1. I'll be happy when this cycle of wind energy mania busts.

But I'm not optimistic there will be any money to remove that trash and recycle it.

The hillsides of California are still littered with the rotting remains of the 'eighties wind turbine mania.

I've developed a quixotic and visceral dislike of these things.

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Response to hunter (Reply #1)

Sat Sep 5, 2020, 09:01 AM

2. Not all of the wind turbine trash CAN be recycled in any remotely economic way.

There are lots of amusing papers about trying to find different ways to do something with the turbine blades. Most are currently cut up and land filled. People are trying to find ways to burn them without emitting toxic fumes. They are apparently made with a type of fiberglass impregnated with a thermopolymer - the fuel source. It appears that the cheapest way to deal with them is to landfill them.

Here's a recent paper, 2020, on dealing with the problem in Ireland: A Comparative Life Cycle Assessment between landfilling and Co-Processing of waste from decommissioned Irish wind turbine blades (Leahy et al., Journal of Cleaner Production 277 (2020) 123321)

(Of course, if they fall into the ocean, all bets are off.)

The turbine blades last around 20 years, before they have to be pulled down, cut into pieces - I'm sure the dust is wonderful for peoples lungs - and hauled off to a dump, where they can leach stuff for, well, forever. Some have a kind of coating polymer that apparently shreds after three years; at sea, this increases the polymer load in seawater. When this coating shreds, it degrades the performance of these giant eyesores.

Degraded wind turbine blades are currently accumulating at a rate something like 100,000 metric tons per year, a rate expected to grow rapidly, this for a trivial form of energy that has been entirely useless in addressing climate change or reducing the use of dangerous fossil fuels. (For comparison, half a century of operations, while providing close to 20% of US electricity for a large portion of that time, the US accumulated about 80,000 tons of used nuclear fuel.) Wind turbines, world wide, despite all the cheering by uneducated anti-nukes, have never, combined with the future electronic waste that solar cells represent, ever produced half as much energy as nuclear energy is producing right now.

So much for "renewable."

History will not forgive us; nor should it.

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