Wind Power Saves Lives – The Altamont Pass wind farms save birds, too!

Wind power can save your life!

Pollution What kind of air would you like your children to breathe? Pollution from a coal or gas-fired power plant? Or clean, natural air from a wind farm? The decision is obvious! Wind energy can save your life!

Wind Power Displaces Toxic Emissions and Pollution. Wind power displaces toxic emissions and pollution from fossil-fired power plants, which reduces the number of deaths and diseases caused by harmful pollution.

In 2008, fossil-fired power plants in the U.S. emitted 5,225 billion pounds of pollutants that cause disease and climate change.

When clean, renewable power generation from the Altamont wind turbines displaces natural gas generation, the emissions and pollution savings are estimated as follows:

NOx, lbs/yr 1,710,000
SOx, lbs/yr 5,800
CO2, lbs/yr 1,310,000,000
PM, lbs/yr 43,000
water consumptions, gal/yr 250,000,000
reduced natural gas, cf/yr 3,324,000,000

The emissions and pollution saved during the past 20 years of operation of the Altamont wind farms—over 26 billion pounds—would cover the City of Oakland (54 square miles) about 427 feet deep!

Wind Power Saves Lives. In a study completed by Don McCubbin, Ph.D., in September 2010, "Health, Wildlife, and Climate Benefits of the 580 MW Altamont Wind Farm," the Altamont Pass wind farms save about four premature deaths each year, plus prevent other respiratory illnesses like bronchitis, asthma, heart attacks, and lung cancer. Over the past 20 years, the Altamont wind farms have saved about 73 premature deaths and 60 heart attacks!

Because of the 26 billion pounds of pollutants the Altamont Pass has avoided during the past 20 years, the following human health impacts were prevented:
Diseased lungs
annually 20 yrs
premature deaths 3.7 73
chronic bronchitis 1.5 30
heart attacks 3 60
asthma ER visits 0.8 16
acute bronchitis 4 80
asthma exacerbation 46 920
lost work days 335 6,700
minor restricted activity days 1,950 39,000

Proof that wind power can save your life!

Wind Power Saves Birds. The Altamont Pass wind farms save birds, too! Not only does the use of clean, natural wind power save human lives, it also saves the lives of birds and other wildlife. Birds are far more sensitive to pollution than humans due to the thinness of the bird’s lung’s air-sac gas-exchange tissue, plus the large amounts of oxygen required for flight. Therefore, birds are far more sensitive to airborne particulates and pollution—for example, miners use birds in their coal mines to sense certain gases before it becomes a problem for humans.

In a study completed by Ben Sovacool, in March 2009, "Contextualizing Avian Mortality: a preliminary appraisal of bird and bat fatalities from wind, fossil-fuel, and nuclear electricity," he offered a methodology to approximate the number of birds killed per kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity generated, with the following results: fossil-fired facilities are about 17 times more dangerous to birds on a kWh basis than wind.

According to the study mentions above by McCubbin, the Altamont Pass wind farms have saved over 55,000 birds over the past 20 years.

Money pile

Wind Power Reduces Health Costs. The hidden economic burdens placed on society from air pollution created by fossil-fired power generation is huge—the costs to "medicate" and "repair" our society, based upon the various air pollution values over 20 years, is roughly estimated at $960 million, which comprises health care and disease costs, plus damage to crops, property, etc. Therefore, the clean, renewable power from Altamont Pass wind farms has saved our society roughly $960 million over 20 years in health and societal costs.

Wind Power Provides Economic Benefits. The economic benefits for the local economy from the Altamont Pass wind farms is estimated at $9 billion, including property taxes, payroll, land lease rent paid to farmers, etc.


As background, gas, oil and/or coal-fired power plants emit the following harmful pollutants:

Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) combine with other pollutants to form ground-level ozone, one of the most noxious parts of smog and acid rain. Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is a deep lung irritant and can cause lung damage.

Sulphur Oxides (SOx) contribute to the yellow haze over many major cities in the U.S.; it is a major factor in causing acid-rain damage to our lakes, rivers, and forests. Sulphur dioxide (SO2) is a reactive, soluble gas that is rapidly absorbed by the respiratory tract, causing lung disease and breathing problems.

Particulate Matter (PM) is a complex mixture of extremely small particles and liquid droplets, composed of many different chemical compounds, including acids, organic chemicals, metals, and dust particles, and also forms from other pollutants, such as NOx, SOx, and acid rain. The larger-diameter PM can be seen as dust, soot, or smoke exiting a smoke stack. Smaller PM can only be detected using an electron microscope. The smaller PM particles that are emitted from power plants pose the greatest health problems because they can lodge deep into your lungs and then move into your bloodstream. Exposure to PM has been associated with a broad range of health effects, including mortality, cancer, asthma, respiratory infections, and heart attacks.

Carbon Dioxide (CO2) causes global warming and climate change, which disrupts ecosystems and causes unstable and dangerous weather patterns. 2005 was the hottest year on record and 2009 was the second hottest year on record, according to NASA. The U.S. EPA reports that global warming is expected to raise the temperature in California by 5º over the next century. As the temperature increases, heat-related deaths increase, smog increases, respiratory illnesses increase, spread of infectious diseases increase, serious droughts increase, certain species go extinct, crop losses increase, subsurface ocean temperatures become warmer, hurricanes become stronger, icecaps and glaciers melt, sea levels rise causing flooding and billions of dollars of damage to beaches and property along the California coasts, California forests decline, and the Sierra Nevada Mountains snowpack is expected to decrease by 30% to 70%, thereby decreasing a primary source of water and electricity, all with a warmer, drier climate.

Mercury pollution from fossil-fired power plants is the largest source of mercury pollution in the U.S., releasing an esimated 104,000 pounds of the toxin annually into the atmosphere, with the mercury then making its way into lakes and streams and accumulating in fish and wildlife and humans who consume them. Mercury, even tiny amounts, can have a devastating impact on the human nervous system, especially for children. Exposure to mercury can cause birth defects, brain and kidney damage, and even death. "Don’t Eat the Fish" warnings now occur at thousands of U.S. lakes and streams, alerting people that eating fish from those bodies of water could result in neurological damage from the contamination of fish with toxic mercury. California has advised against consuming fish caught in 40 miles of its rivers and 64,024 acres of its lakes due to mercury contamination.

Health, Wildlife, and Climate Benefits of the 580 MW Altamont Wind Farm, September 2010, by Don McCubbin, Ph.D. 122 pages.