I see a wind turbine, I want to paint it black;
To protect avians I want to make it black.
With the Inuvik Wind Project set to go up in the coming month, I was suddenly reminded of a 2020 study where scientists discovered they could reduce collisions between birds and spinning blades by over 70 per cent by simply painting one blade of the turbine black.
The effect of wind turbines on the bird and bat population is usually the first objection that comes up whenever a project like this gets proposed, and I understand here was no exception. Fortunately for the bats, it’s apparently too cold up here for them, at least in this decade. Geese, on the other had, fly up here by the thousands.
A detail that anti-wind types tend to leave out is while wind turbines are big killers of avians, they are no way near the worst culprit of modern society to do so. The American Bird Conservancy estimates roughly 1.17 million birds are killed by wind turbines each year — compared to 7 million killed by communication towers, the over 60 million killed by automobile collisions and over 60 million killed each year because of pesticide use. Those aren’t even the worst bird killers human civilization has come up with. Topping the list of causes of bird deaths are skyscrapers and domestic cats, which kill anywhere from 100 million to a billion birds a year — each.
So putting up a wind turbine is not the worst thing that could be done to the birds up here. That being said, NTPC says that they observed the area for a six month period in 2018 and didn’t see a lot of geese, so they’ve concluded its safe and there’s no need to paint a blade black for extra assurance.
First off, the study that found this information out was published after NTPC did its survey of the area, so I don’t really see how the observations made by NTPC negate the discoveries of the scientists. It also seems a bit premature to assume the birds won’t alter their migration patterns as magnetic North shifts and climate change progresses.
But really, knowing that painting a blade black can reduce potential problems in the future — while the blade is still on the ground and can be painted relatively affordably — and openly choosing not to is just plain negligence. If it turns out science is right and NTPC is wrong, which is the likely outcome, the turbine will have to be shut down so someone can climb up there and paint it or dismantled to be painted.
The goose hunt is a major part of people’s livelihood here, from the social gathering aspect to the sustenance to helping people keep their freezers stocked without burning their bank accounts.
Knocking a few thousand of geese out every year would likely have an impact on people’s health in the Delta. Chances are NTPC isn’t going to be keen on people driving up to the turbine to collect goose corpses.
A sign at one of my old jobs read “Why is there always enough time to do it again, but never enough time to do it right the first time?”
NTPC should do the job right the first time. Paint it black.