Impact on Wildlife and Colorado
Colorado's Eastern Plains are a bit safer for prairie chickens - lesser and greater - and a spate of other animals and plants as the result of a unique partnership between conservation groups and the wind industry.
After reviewing population trends, hunter-harvest reports and licenses sales from the two states over the last 30 years, wildlife biologists concluded that oil and gas drilling, wind farms, agricultural practices and other human encroachments are slicing and dicing critical habitat the animals have historically relied upon to survive.
For hikers who took a walk to the Pawnee Buttes on Christmas Day, the experience provided a view of more than just the two buttes and the Cedar Creek wind farm to the north.
Hikers that day also saw an oil rig drilling a well on property to the west of the buttes.
Xcel Energy and the Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association have filed with the commission for a certificate of public convenience and necessity for the lines, which the companies say will increase the reliability of the grid in the valley and increase their ability to export electricity generated from wind and solar farms in Southern Colorado. ...An administrative law judge will hold a pre-hearing conference Friday in Denver to consider the intervention requests. The utilities commission has until Jan. 26 to decide on the applications by Xcel and Tri-State.
A giant wind farm in northeast Weld County may be a groundbreaking model of how to generate clean, renewable energy while protecting wildlife occupying the same space.
But it's also been on the receiving end of some environmental criticism. ...Ken Strom, director of bird conservation for Audubon Colorado, said he is disappointed that Cedar Creek's developers did not move all the turbines away from the escarpment.
"In terms of the outcome of the hearings, I don't think (our concerns) were adequately addressed," he said. "I think they tried to meet a number of our concerns but they fought to move a minimum of the turbines."
Strom notes that some birds will be killed as a result of having the turbines within their traditional nesting areas and others will simply avoid the area out of fear of the constantly whooshing towers.
Now something else catches your eye on the horizon, and as you edge closer to the Clear Creek Wind Farm, you'll see white turbines with three huge helicopter-like blades dotted all over the landscape.
Plans for those blades raised the concerns of biologists who aren't fooled by the appearance of wasteland in northeastern Weld and know how important the habitat is to raptors and the occasional ground bird. There was good reason for their concerns: When the first experimental wind farm was erected years ago in California, hundreds, even thousands, of raptors were wiped out by the blades. And the area Cedar Creek creators chose was prime raptor habitat.
So far, the Colorado Division of Wildlife has documented more than 70 raptor nests in the project area. Among those species: Swainson's hawks, ferruginous hawks, golden eagles and prairie falcons.
The area, along with the Comanche National Grassland, is recognized by the National Audubon Society as a Colorado site of "global importance," said Ken Strom, Colorado Audubon's director of bird conservation.