Articles filed under Impact on Birds from California
The largest wind energy producer in the Altamont Pass area of eastern Alameda and Contra Costa counties has agreed to replace 2,400 wind turbines within four years and pay $2.5 million in a legal settlement to reduce deaths of eagles, hawks and other raptors hacked by turbine blades.
The controversy surrounding wind farms in America has been brewing for over 25 years. The debate centers around the use of the deadly propeller style wind turbines and the large death toll to what are supposedly protected species. One of these species, the federally protected golden eagle, has been at the forefront of this debate from the beginning. This is for good reason, because at Altamont Pass California, 50-75 golden eagles have been killed each year in the blades of the prop wind turbine.
Golden Gate Audubon and four other local Audubon chapters sent a letter Jan. 28 to Alameda County demanding that the county ensure that wind turbines operating in the Altamont Pass remain shut down until the county implements a management plan that significantly reduces avian mortality resulting from wind turbine operations in the Altamont. "Wind turbine operations in the Altamont Pass kill as many as 9,600 birds each year, including many species that are fully protected by state and federal laws," said Mike Lynes, Conservation Director for Golden Gate Audubon.
The Altamont is the world's oldest wind farm with some 5,000 power-generating turbines covering 50 square miles on the Alameda County border. While generating good green power for the state, it has a bad reputation for killing birds. The wind turbines on the gusty Altamont Pass were installed after the energy crisis in the 1970s. Today, the world's oldest wind farm powers an average of 100,000 homes with clean green energy. But environmentalists say it comes at a steep price.
The dirty little secret about the windmill farm at Altamont Pass is that it slaughters thousands of birds every year while politicians turn a blind eye. Four years ago, environmental groups filed suit after the Alameda County Board of Supervisors effectively allowed the farm's several owners to keep killing birds despite evidence that the deaths could be greatly lessened.
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.
Two of California's highest priority environmental causes, promoting renewable energy and saving the California condor, are on a collision course. The proliferation of prop wind turbines and their well documented history of killing birds of prey have put the future of California condor at great risk. The fact is, in recent years many missing Condors have most likely perished at wind farms in California. Many of the captive bed condors, released into the wild since 1992 have turned up missing. Nearly 1/3 of all the captive bred condors released, perish for unknown reasons. If one looks into the scientific literature, collision is nearly always listed as a major cause of death to Condors.
Over the past two decades, federal officials have brought hundreds of similar cases against energy companies. In July, for example, the Oregon-based electric utility PacifiCorp paid $1.4 million in fines and restitution for killing 232 eagles in Wyoming over the past two years. The birds were electrocuted by poorly-designed power lines. Yet there is one group of energy producers that are not being prosecuted for killing birds: wind-power companies. And wind-powered turbines are killing a vast number of birds every year.
Soledad wants to build a seven-turbine wind farm to power its wastewater treatment plant. Sounds simple enough only the few remaining California condors frequently fly over the city and the Department of Fish and Game doesn't want to take the chance for one endangered bird to be pureed. "Even though it's a relatively low risk," says David Hacker, staff environmental scientist for DFG, "it's still a risk and any risk can be significant for this species."
You may not be aware of this but across America each year thousands of birds of prey are killed at wind farms. The public perception of wind turbines is that of slow moving blades turning in the wind on a ridge line. The power and danger of the prop design wind turbine is not well understood. Probably the hardest aspect for the public to grasp is that of "tip speed." The killer of eagles and all birds at wind farms is blade tip speed. This is what kills and this is what the wind industry does not publicize or put in their environmental documents.
The killer of eagles and all birds at wind farms is blade tip speed. ...What is hard to comprehend is that at 20 rotations per minute, the tip speed of the blades for the three turbines works out to 180 mph, 215 mph and 222 miles per hour. The speed and power of these blades is what amputates the wings and heads off flying eagles. From miles away the blades look rather slow, but up close these huge blades move faster than a guillotine.
Wildlife researcher Jim Wiegand says "Green energy is a cover up and a lie because birds of prey are getting killed, people wouldn't believe how these turbines chop them up." Many members of the Pit River Tribe were among the protestors outside the Shasta County Administration Center touting the deadly effects wind turbines have on birds, particularly bald eagles.
Saying its blades will leave eagle blood in the air and on the ground, opponents of the Hatchet Ridge Wind Project are planning a protest rally. "It just really needs to be relooked at," said Radley Davis, a member of the Pit River Tribe and one of the protest organizers. The protest will be at noon Friday in front of the Shasta County Administration Center, organizers said.
This afternoon, the Shasta County Board of Supervisors will have a hearing concerning the Hatchet Ridge Wind project. The board's decision will have a significant impact on birds living in and migrating through the West. The Board of Supervisors has not been given the knowledge to make a proper decision on the project. ...The wind power industry learned a lesson from the astounding number of bird kills at Altamont Pass. Instead of pursuing better wind turbine designs that would limit bird kills, it chose a path of cover-up and lies. Today many wind turbine sites have limited access and workers will lose their jobs if they disclose the truth.
"While we are gratified that the Court of Appeal reaffirmed the traditional public trust ownership of wildlife, we are disappointed that it rejected the possibility of a lawsuit directly against those who are illegally killing wildlife," said Rick Wiebe, the attorney representing the Center for Biological Diversity. "A lawsuit against those who are killing wildlife is the most direct and effective means of protecting wildlife and vindicating the public trust in wildlife."
A lawsuit contending the whirling blades on the hundreds of windmills in the Altamont Pass area are killing birds has been rejected by the First District Court of Appeal. "Permitting the action to proceed as presented would require the court to make complex and delicate balancing judgments without the benefit of the expertise of the agencies responsible for protecting the trust resources and would threaten redundancy at best and inconsistency at worst," the appellate court decision says.
Efforts to reduce bird kills in the Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area may not be working, new data released this week show. The mortality rate increased 27 percent over two years among raptors targeted in an ongoing monitoring study, according to an executive summary of the data issued by Alameda County's Scientific Review Committee. The five member panel advises the county on progress being made to mitigate bird deaths in the Altamont Pass windmill area. ...The increase in the kills of the four targeted raptors - the golden eagle, red-tailed hawk, American kestrel and burrowing owl - is in comparison with a baseline study that took place between March 1998 and May 2003.
Alameda County supervisors approved on Tuesday a new three-month, bird-monitoring contract to study the impacts of the Altamont Pass wind turbines on scores of birds, including golden eagles, red-tailed hawks, burrowing owls and other protected species. Supervisors approved the $450,000 contract with environmental consulting firm Jones & Stokes by a 3-2 vote.
Peter Gross of Babcock and Brown presented a request for a permit to put up another meteorological tower in the town of Westfield. According to Gross, after the public meetings about the possibility of wind farms in the Westfield-Ripley area, several families approached him about how they could become involved in the project. "They came to us which started us looking at the possibilities in that area," Gross said. "We won't know for sure until we have the readings from the met tower but we're proceeding with hopeful caution."
Long before wind turbines sprouted on Altamont Pass, it was home to the highest density of golden eagles in the world and their major breeding area in the United States. Almost as soon as the first turbine started rotating, the bird carcasses started piling up: Golden eagles, burrowing owls, red-tailed hawks, other raptors, western meadowlarks and migrating songbirds. ...On Feb. 12, an interim report on raptor mortality during 2005-2007 was released. Instead of a reduction in raptor mortality, the study found deaths had risen except for that among golden eagles, which had fallen to the sustainable level of 49 deaths per year. Burrowing owl mortality suffered the greatest increase - more than 300 percent - and the overall raptor deaths almost doubled.