Library filed under Impact on Birds from California
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has calculated that the neighboring Pine Tree wind facility caused 11.8 bird fatalities per megawatt in the first year of monitoring; if North Sky River turns out to be of comparable hazard, that's about 3,500 birds per year counting on NextEra's good-faith hazard mitigation.
North Sky River's developer NextEra and government agencies pushed forward with the project despite high wildlife mortality and the nearby Pine Tree wind project. The aim was to get North Sky River producing power by December 31 so that it could qualify for the federal Wind Production Tax Credit.
Barbara Hoffman said the project extends the damaging impacts of industrial wind development to the Mojave Desert and complained that the county routinely ignores the serious impacts these projects will have. Mike Fortuna of Mojave said the Alta Project has been broken up into small bits and passed bit by bit in an effort to avoid acknowledging just how damaging wind development is to the environment and the community of Mojave specifically.
Approval would include the requirement that Alta developer Terra Gen-Power establish a system for monitoring the radio signals from condors and shut down turbines if the birds get close to them. ..."We don't know how well the system will work. We are somewhat concerned because even now not all the condors have the radio tags on them."
The groups maintain that the combined project as planned poses a serious risk to California condors, now struggling to rebuild their numbers after nearly going extinct in the 1980s. The project may also pose a threat to beleaguered golden eagles, southwestern willow flycatchers, and bats.
But the groups say the state issued North Sky an incidental take permit and approved a streambed alteration "without considering the impacts of the operation of the project on protected avian species, the majestic golden eagle and the extremely rare California condor and imperiled willow flycatchers, as well as impacts to an important avian migratory corridor."
Ken Collum, field manager for the BLM's Eagle Lake office, said the agency sent Invenergy a letter in May requesting a development alternative that is completely outside of Sage-Grouse habitat.
Now, in what has become one of the most critical conservation issues in the state, wind farms are considering using radar units and experimental telemetry systems that they hope will avoid harming birds by identifying incoming species early enough to switch off the massive turbines and then - to minimize costs and maximize profits - turn them back on again as quickly as possible.
Now, wind farm developers are touting radar systems similar to those used by the U.S. Air Force and NASA. In aviation, the technology detects large flocks of incoming birds and is sold to avoid bird collisions with aircraft. At wind facilities, avian radar in theory offers the potential reduce bird kills by shutting off turbines before birds reach the blades. Just how effective these systems are at wind facilities, however, remains debatable.
Across the nation, about 450,000 birds are killed every year at wind farms. According to Dave Bittner, executive director for the Wildlife Research Institute in Ramona, golden eagles are another bird species vulnerable to the windmills. "They're big soaring birds and they like to hunt under the towers," he said.
Audubon and other bird advocates say the DWP should have done more extensive monitoring before building the 90 or so turbines at Pine Tree. Killing a golden eagle is a federal crime.
"The increasing golden eagle mortality at Pine Tree clearly points to wind turbines built in the wrong location," said Ileene Anderson, a biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. The utility needs to redesign its 250-megawatt Pine Tree network and Kern County needs to put a moratorium on construction of nearby wind farms to prevent deaths, Anderson said.
Under the federal and California endangered species acts, it’s illegal for anyone to kill a condor without first securing a permit to do so. Given that the government has not issued such an “incidental take” permit and has no intention of doing so, if a turbine kills a condor, the operator could be charged criminally. Environmentalists could also ask a judge to shut down a wind farm where a condor died.
A San Francisco company said it has abandoned plans for a large-scale wind farm near Winters because the turbines could have harmed golden eagles, bald eagles and other local bird species. ...Dallas said the proposed wind farm has received appropriate permits but does not have a contract to sell power to any of the local utilities.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is investigating to determine what killed the big raptors ...But the likely cause of death is no mystery to wildlife biologists who say they were probably clipped by the blades of some of the 80 wind turbines at the three-year-old Pine Tree Wind Farm Project, operated by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.
NBC News explores the hazards of wind turbines on American Eagles. Duration 2 minutes 14 seconds
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.
But with the potential for many more of the 200-foot-tall wind towers, some residents are none too pleased with the whole idea. "This is one of the most important habitats for birds in the county," said Emmy Cattani, an owner of the Adobe Ranch, located northwest of Benton.
Each year, about 2,000 raptors are killed in the Altamont Pass by wind turbines, according to on-site surveys conducted by field biologists. The toll, however, could be higher because bird carcasses are quickly removed by scavengers. Environmentalists have persuaded the energy industry and federal authorities - often through litigation - to modify the size, shape and placement of wind turbines.
"It would take 167 pairs of local nesting golden eagles to produce enough young to compensate for their mortality rate related to wind energy production," said field biologist Doug Bell, manager of East Bay Regional Park District's wildlife program. "We only have 60 pairs."