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Contextualizing avian mortality: A preliminary appraisal of bird and bat fatalities from wind, fossil-fuel, and nuclear electricity


  • Sovacool, Benjamin K.


This article explores the threats that wind farms pose to birds and bats before briefly surveying the recent literature on avian mortality and summarizing some of the problems with it. Based on operating performance in the United States and Europe, this study offers an approximate calculation for the number of birds killed per kWh generated for wind electricity, fossil-fuel, and nuclear power systems. The study estimates that wind farms and nuclear power stations are responsible each for between 0.3 and 0.4 fatalities per gigawatt-hour (GWh) of electricity while fossil-fueled power stations are responsible for about 5.2 fatalities per GWh. While this paper should be respected as a preliminary assessment, the estimate means that wind farms killed approximately seven thousand birds in the United States in 2006 but nuclear plants killed about 327,000 and fossil-fueled power plants 14.5 million. The paper concludes that further study is needed, but also that fossil-fueled power stations appear to pose a much greater threat to avian wildlife than wind and nuclear power technologies.

Suggested Citation

  • Sovacool, Benjamin K., 2009. "Contextualizing avian mortality: A preliminary appraisal of bird and bat fatalities from wind, fossil-fuel, and nuclear electricity," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 37(6), pages 2241-2248, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:enepol:v:37:y:2009:i:6:p:2241-2248

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Sovacool, Benjamin K. & Lindboe, Hans H. & Odgaard, Ole, 2008. "Is the Danish Wind Energy Model Replicable for Other Countries?," The Electricity Journal, Elsevier, vol. 21(2), pages 27-38, March.
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    Cited by:

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    2. Dai, Kaoshan & Bergot, Anthony & Liang, Chao & Xiang, Wei-Ning & Huang, Zhenhua, 2015. "Environmental issues associated with wind energy – A review," Renewable Energy, Elsevier, vol. 75(C), pages 911-921.
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    11. Shafiullah, G.M. & M.T. Oo, Amanullah & Shawkat Ali, A.B.M. & Wolfs, Peter, 2013. "Potential challenges of integrating large-scale wind energy into the power grid–A review," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 20(C), pages 306-321.
    12. Visser, Elke & Perold, Vonica & Ralston-Paton, Samantha & Cardenal, Alvaro C. & Ryan, Peter G., 2019. "Assessing the impacts of a utility-scale photovoltaic solar energy facility on birds in the Northern Cape, South Africa," Renewable Energy, Elsevier, vol. 133(C), pages 1285-1294.
    13. Zerrahn, Alexander, 2017. "Wind Power and Externalities," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 141(C), pages 245-260.
    14. Gorsevski, Pece V. & Cathcart, Steven C. & Mirzaei, Golrokh & Jamali, Mohsin M. & Ye, Xinyue & Gomezdelcampo, Enrique, 2013. "A group-based spatial decision support system for wind farm site selection in Northwest Ohio," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 55(C), pages 374-385.
    15. Pfenninger, Stefan & Keirstead, James, 2015. "Comparing concentrating solar and nuclear power as baseload providers using the example of South Africa," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 87(C), pages 303-314.
    16. Siyal, Shahid Hussain & Mörtberg, Ulla & Mentis, Dimitris & Welsch, Manuel & Babelon, Ian & Howells, Mark, 2015. "Wind energy assessment considering geographic and environmental restrictions in Sweden: A GIS-based approach," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 83(C), pages 447-461.
    17. Tabatabaei, Sharareh Majdzadeh & Hadian, Ebrahim & Marzban, Hossein & Zibaei, Mansour, 2017. "Economic, welfare and environmental impact of feed-in tariff policy: A case study in Iran," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 102(C), pages 164-169.
    18. Sascha Samadi, 2017. "The Social Costs of Electricity Generation—Categorising Different Types of Costs and Evaluating Their Respective Relevance," Energies, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 10(3), pages 1-37, March.
    19. Miao, Ruiqing & Ghosh, Prasenjit N. & Khanna, Madhu & Wang, Weiwei & Rong, Jian, 2019. "Effect of wind turbines on bird abundance: A national scale analysis based on fixed effects models," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 132(C), pages 357-366.
    20. Walston, Leroy J. & Rollins, Katherine E. & LaGory, Kirk E. & Smith, Karen P. & Meyers, Stephanie A., 2016. "A preliminary assessment of avian mortality at utility-scale solar energy facilities in the United States," Renewable Energy, Elsevier, vol. 92(C), pages 405-414.
    21. Gasparatos, Alexandros & Doll, Christopher N.H. & Esteban, Miguel & Ahmed, Abubakari & Olang, Tabitha A., 2017. "Renewable energy and biodiversity: Implications for transitioning to a Green Economy," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 70(C), pages 161-184.
    22. Saidur, R. & Rahim, N.A. & Islam, M.R. & Solangi, K.H., 2011. "Environmental impact of wind energy," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 15(5), pages 2423-2430, June.

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