Impact on Bats and California
The group concluded in written comments that the project falls short of state law by failing to address the "expected cumulative fatalities" of birds and bats.
However, project consultants for the county and the applicant, Nextra Energy Montezuma II Wind, LLC, pledged to provide habitat for wildlife and birds elsewhere.
The endangered desert tortoise and Mojave ground squirrel are frequent headliners in the local environmental debate whenever developers seek a piece of the High Desert.
Now scientists are saying another population that's not quite so lovable also needs an advocate.
The thousand of birds killed by the wind turbines at Altamont Pass tainted the reputation of the renewable energy source.
But according to a recent report by the Ventana Wildlife Society and the Stanford Solar and Wind Energy Project, smaller wind-power projects may be able to harvest energy in some parts of Monterey County without harming the endangered California condor.
"The condor is the main thing that's been holding up the development of wind-power projects in Monterey County," said John Roitz.
The California Energy Commission voted 3-0 Wednesday to approve voluntary guidelines to help reduce bird and bat deaths at wind turbines.
The guidelines are meant to protect wildlife as the state moves to produce 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2010.
Bird kills by the whirling blades have been the subject of lawsuits and injunctions in recent years.
Ducks in the Dakotas, tanagers in Texas and grosbeaks along the Gulf of Mexico could all be hit by the rapid growth of wind power unless the renewable electricity farms are carefully sited, experts said.
"The first three rules of avoiding impacts with wind turbines are always going to be location, location, location," Mike Daulton, a spokesman with the National Audubon Society, said in a telephone interview.
Clean-energy wind farms are cropping up rapidly in the United States on rising concerns about greenhouse gas carbon dioxide emissions and flat output of natural gas, which fires most of the power plants built since the 1990s. U.S. wind power is expected to increase by 26 percent in installed generation this year, after similar growth last year.
A study by the National Academy of Sciences released late this week found that wind energy could reduce the energy sector's carbon dioxide emissions by 4.5 percent by 2020.
But federal and state governments should take environmental impacts of wind energy more seriously as part of the planning, locating and regulating turbines, it said.