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Tuesday, June 18, 2024
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Wind farms are killing whales

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WHALES have always been an iconic creature for the environmental movement. In the 1970s, Greenpeace’s ‘Save the Whales’ campaign brought them to the forefront of public attention.

But the green warriors are curiously silent about what has been described as ‘the biggest environmental scandal in the world’. According to the highly respected US environmentalist, Michael Shellenberger, deaths of whales off the US east coast have spiked since 2016, while the only significant change has been the introduction of high-decibel sonar and new boat traffic, both associated with the development of offshore wind farms in the area.

Shellenberger has been one of the leading US environmentalists for more than 30 years. In the 1990s, he helped save California’s last unprotected ancient redwood forest. Now he has helped to produce a new film, Thrown to the Wind, which can be seen here.

It graphically describes the impact the wind industry is having, particularly off the coast of Massachusetts, which is home to large numbers of Atlantic whales.

As well as the massive increase in boat traffic, which is well known to kill whales in large numbers, the noise created by sonar surveying of the seabed, which goes on day and night, is truly deafening, even miles away; its effect on the highly sensitive hearing of whales can only be guessed at.

One particular concern about sonar is that it can separate calves from mothers, which leaves both highly stressed. They both use so much energy in the search to find each other that they can simply run out of strength and sink.

Since 2016, about 350 dead whales have been discovered. Whale experts are concerned that many more die at sea, and are never found.

There is also justified concern about the effect of wind turbine turbulence on the ocean once they begin operating. There are worries that whales will simply move away.

If killing whales is not bad enough, North Atlantic right whales (Eubalaena glacialis), which live in that area, are critically endangered, down to a population of about 340. The species will go extinct if the current death rate continues.

Sean Hayes, chief of the protected species branch at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Northeast Fisheries Science Center, warned ocean energy regulators last year that ‘additional noise, vessel traffic and habitat modifications due to offshore wind development will likely cause added stress’ to whales and ‘result in additional population consequences’. His warnings were ignored.

Environmental activist Lisa Linowes, who appears in the film mentioned above, believes that the US authorities are in violation of the Endangered Species Act.

Of course, the spike in deaths may be purely coincidental, but environmentalists have traditionally worked on the Precautionary Principle. If right whales are under threat of extinction because of wind farms, you suspend all further development, at least until you have more information. You don’t carry and then say sorry afterwards.

Which brings us to the question as to why neither the green movement or the media seem bothered. Indeed the typical reaction of the media has been that this is all a right-wing misinformation campaign. The reaction of the media that nobody knows why whale deaths are increasing, but ‘wind farms cannot possibly be to blame’, has clearly been well co-ordinated by the renewables lobby.

One of the answers is, unsurprisingly, money. The wind industry has poured money into their own misinformation campaign to deflect attention.

The film highlights the case of the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) which used to be a small, genuinely environmental outfit. It is the AMCS who investigate whale deaths when they are washed ashore. In 2020, changes in the board of directors introduced a tranche of new members, many of whom appear to benefit from the development of offshore wind. Incredibly, the president is actually the lead lobbyist for the energy company Equinor, who are planning to build a huge wind farm off Long Island. Unsurprisingly, the AMCS deny that the whale deaths are anything to do with wind farms, and that climate change is the biggest threat to them.

At the end of film, Lisa Linowes has this foreboding message: ‘What the US is looking at is thousands of wind turbines standing 1,000 feet tall, in an area that the whales, dolphins and other marine life live, where they migrate, where they breed. It’s at a level that we cannot even understand now what the impact will be. And when we’re dealing with a critically endangered whale, that’s on the verge of extinction, our laws do not support the level of development that’s going to happen within the right whales’ habitat.’ 

A Labour win will guarantee blackouts

IF LABOUR win the next election, we will have catastrophic blackouts within a few years.

Does this sound like unsubstantiated scaremongering? Sadly no, because that is exactly what will happen if Labour carry out their energy policy which Ed Miliband announced at last year’s party conference.

To recap, the central plank of that policy is to decarbonise power generation totally by 2030. To do this, Labour propose to double onshore wind capacity, triple solar and quadruple offshore wind.

In theory, the numbers stack up. Over the year as a whole, that should produce enough electricity to meet demand, with the help of about 10 GW of nuclear, biomass and hydro power.

But as we well know, the wind does not always blow and the sun does not always shine! For instance, a study into wind power by Dr Capell Aris in 2017 found that Britain’s wind farms operated at less than 20 per cent of capacity for 20 weeks a year, and less than 10 per cent for nine weeks.

A new analysis, based on hour-by-hour wind and solar generation last year and using Labour’s planned capacity, has quantified the power shortages we can expect in 2030. It makes grim reading.

The model, which assumes that there are no imports of electricity, finds that Great Britain will be short of power for 48 per cent of the year. (Equally we will have surplus power for the other 52 per cent, much of which will be thrown away). In particular, there was a 19-day period last December, coinciding with a cold snap, during which electricity generation would have met only about two thirds of demand.

We do, of course, already import electricity from Europe, and there are plans to increase interconnector capacity. But even that would not be enough to meet the shortfall. The model calculates that we would still be short of power for 10 per cent of the year, even with the planned 17GW of interconnector capacity. There were several periods during that December cold snap when even with imports we would still have been several GW short.

In any event, it is foolhardy, even suicidal, to rely on Europe for so much of our power, at times of the year when they are also likely to be desperately short. How long will it be before, say, Germany refuses to export power to the European grid when their wind power is low?

Below is a rather interesting chart of electricity generation across the EU during December 2022. Note how much lower wind power was during the same period that it was here. Unsurprisingly it was gas and coal that came to the rescue.

https://www.energymonitor.ai/power/live-eu-electricity-generation-map/

Things will only get worse as electric cars and heat pumps add further demand.

Unfortunately the disasters heading our way will be the inevitable result of letting politicians and eco-cranks determine our energy policy.

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Paul Homewood
Paul Homewood
Paul Homewood is a former accountant who blogs about climate change at Not a Lot of People Know That

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