Articles filed under Impact on Wildlife from California
From the early 1980s through the early ‘90s, California was the national leader in wind energy development and power produced by wind farms. ...Are the turbines benefiting one aspect of the environment at the expense of another? Longtime Snow Creek resident Les Starks calls the wind farms "industrial slums" - claiming the windmills have displaced wildlife and degraded the quality of life for nearby residents. "There was a canyon near Whitewater Canyon that used to have thousands of bats," says Starks, "and now you don't see any." He's also noticed a decline in turkey buzzards migrating through the pass. ...With wind energy having been harnessed in the Desert for nearly three decades, the next few years will determine its future here. Presently, it accounts for just two percent of California's portfolio. That number surely will rise along with new and bigger windmills - love them or hate them.
A new kind of gold rush is going on in the Mojave Desert, according to county Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt. The sought-after objects are sunshine and wind. More than 100 wind farms and solar-energy installations are proposed, enough to cover 1,300 square miles. The rush has raised alarms among residents and local officials who fear the stark beauty of the desert could be destroyed. They need only look as far as Palm Springs to see what their future could look like: rugged mountains and sandy desert floor obscured by a forest of 400-foot tall turbine towers visible from a busy interstate. ...Mitzelfelt and Nassif are concerned that the desert is being asked to bear the brunt of reducing the nation's carbon footprint. ...The San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society finds itself torn on the issue. It supports renewable energy, having sued the county for failing to have a plan to reduce global warming. But experience has shown that wind turbines kill bats, owls, hawks and other birds by the thousands, said President Drew Feldmann. "We don't want to destroy the environment to save it," he told the county and BLM in a letter.
Long before windmills festooned the San Gorgonio Pass, before Interstate 10 barreled through it and before homes and strips malls sprouted, animals rambled freely between the San Bernardino and San Jacinto mountains searching for food, mates and shelter. They still do, although they have to maneuver around some obstacles. The Pass and some of its mountain canyons are among the 15 wildlife linkages between the southern Sierra Nevada and the Mexican border that are considered key to keeping native species thriving and preventing their extinction ...
As the Santa Clarita Valley continues to grow and expand, there is a concern and movement to sustain growth without exhausting natural resources. Finding ways to balance growth with the environment has come to a crossroads. That crossroads can be found in Saugus, where a proposed renewable energy project may threaten the nesting grounds of federally-protected Red-tailed hawks. ...The new renewable power lines through Saugus would end at the Tehachapi Wind Resource Area in Kern County, which is a wind farm that will allow Edison to keep up with demands for renewable power. Yet Manwaring said she has no problem with Edison's renewable energy plan. She just wants to be sure the hawks are protected until they are done nursing.
As the Victor Valley College board of trustees gears up to consider erecting a 314-foot wind turbine, the project may face some unlikely opponents: birds and bats living in the nearby Mojave River bottom. ...A new study on a northern California wind farm at Altamont Pass shows that efforts have failed to protect birds from wind turbine blades which some environmentalists have dubbed "bird blenders," according to Environment & Climate News.
A January 2007 settlement agreement intended to reduce the number of bird deaths from wind turbines at Altamont Pass, California is failing, scientists report. As a result, environmental groups are calling for additional restrictions on wind power generation at the nation's largest wind farm. ...Many of the affected bird species are protected by state and federal laws. Some of the birds killed are protected by federal laws so stringent they do not allow the taking or killing of even a single member of the species. Wind farm critics say the failure to enforce federal wildlife protection laws in the Altamont wind farm case is a result of environmentalists' pressure for wind power.
A green power project proposed for the north state has drawn questions and concerns from nature lovers about how many birds it could kill. In comments on the Hatchet Ridge Wind Project's draft environmental impact report filed last week, the Wintu Audubon Society asks for additional studies on the effect that 44 turbines would have on migrating birds. Of the 16 comments received as of Friday afternoon, a quarter touched on that issue, said Bill Walker, senior planner for Shasta County. The EIR estimated that the turbines proposed for a ridge near Burney would kill a bald eagle every two to three years, as well as about seven birds a year. "It would be a significant impact," Walker said.
A scientific review committee monitoring avian death rates in the Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area has concerns about progress being made to reduce them -- although a report confirming those concerns likely will not be out until next month. Alameda County's Scientific Review Committee -- a five-member panel that advises the county on progress being made to mitigate bird deaths in the Altamont Pass windmill area -- concluded late last year measures taken by wind companies in the area have not done enough to reach a 50-percent reduction in raptor deaths by November 2009. ..."It's alarming to hear they're not going to make the proposed reduction," said Elizabeth Murdock, executive director of the Golden Gate Audubon Society, a plaintiff in the 2006 lawsuit that led to the settlement. "They're saying they've made a zero to negligible reduction in the mortality rate out there."
The safety (for birds) of the Altamont wind turbine farm is at issue during a meeting today. A judge will meet today with environmental groups, wind energy businesses and Alameda County officials to determine what must happen next to protect birds of prey from wind turbines in the Altamont Pass. Californians for Renewable Energy claims that wind power companies have not complied with the conditions of permits that the Alameda County Board of Supervisors approved in September 2005. ...Peter Weiner, an attorney who represents some of the power companies, said the companies' position is that they have complied.
Environmentally friendly efforts aren't so kind to each other in the rolling hills of the Altamont Pass. For years, whirling rotors on some of the 5,000-plus wind turbines that line the pass have minced and otherwise killed thousands of golden eagles, red-tailed hawks and other birds of prey at a rate alarming to groups on a mission to protect them. ...Now a year into the settlement agreement, there has been little progress in reducing bird deaths to levels called for in the settlement. The Golden Gate Audubon Society, a party to the lawsuit that triggered the settlement, backs scientists' recommendation that hundreds more turbines need to be relocated and the shutdown extended in order to reach the reduction mark.
A subtle line blended into Burney’s backdrop, Hatchet Ridge could become an eye catcher if a line of 44 whirling wind turbines is put into place. To some people, however, the project could be an eyesore. “People are already talking about how ugly it is going to be,” said Sharon Elmore, cultural information officer for the Pit River Tribe. She said she’s opposed to the Hatchet Ridge Wind Project because of the effects it would have on the view from Burney and cultural sites on the ridge, as well as animals that live and pass through the regrowing forest. The power project would be built on timberland leveled in the Fountain Fire in 1992.
Hatchet Ridge Wind is both a vital clean-energy project for California and a dramatic alteration of eastern Shasta County's beautiful landscape. It is a feel-good environmental project that will help push California toward its goal of producing electricity with fewer fossil fuels. It is also a massive industrial project that will forever alter one of the prettiest landscapes in the north state. With several dozen towers and turbines reaching up to 418 feet tall, the network would dramatically change the views from the Intermountain area and Highway 299. It would also, according to the recently released environmental studies, take an unavoidable toll on migrating birds including eagles (yep, them again) and sandhill cranes.
Two supervisors in Riverside County, one of California's top producers of wind energy, want the region to be exempt from new statewide guidelines aimed at reducing the deaths of hawks, bats, owls and other animals from windmills.
After years of lawsuits, a settlement was finally reached early this year to try to reduce bird kills at the Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area in Alameda County. But critics charge that the new agreement makes an already bad situation even worse...........The avian mortality problem at Altamont illustrates the complex nature of energy production-even "good" sources such as wind have impacts. Smallwood is "aghast that our natural resource agencies-federal and state-allow the companies to do this when as an individual I can get a shotgun and shoot a golden eagle, but I'd go to jail."
Visual impact will result from the proximity of the wind turbines to Jalama Beach County Park and that of an accompanying new power line to Highway 1. The power line could be hidden by use of an overland route to the PG&E substation in Lompoc, but the turbines will be visible from Jalama unless the project is limited to 50 turbines. Also unavoidable will be the destruction of birds and bats killed in collisions with turbine blades. That's what troubles the Audubon Society, the only organized group to raise significant questions about the project. "We are not totally against it," said Tamarah Taaffe, treasurer of the La Purisima chapter of Audubon. "We just want it placed optimally. On any wind farm, placement is the most important thing. Our basic goal was to support it and work with them on placement." Taaffe added, however, that she considered the county's avian studies inadequate. "Their bird studies were like trying to determine how many kids would go to a school by driving by during Easter vacation," she said. Taafe enumerated the long-eared owl, the horned lark and the golden eagle as species at risk. "The blades move at 200 mph at the tip. It looks kind of lazy but they are so massive. Each blade is replaced within a second. That's not terribly slow." The EIR document acknowledges inevitable damage. "We know birds will be killed," said Drude, a county energy specialist. "So we're going to assume the worst. Since we don't know the number, we'll adapt to it. We're suggesting ‘adaptive mitigation.' If there are turbines which are more dangerous (than others) they could be shut down at certain hours or seasons."
A scientific panel has concluded that new wind farms could generate up to 7 percent of U.S. electricity in 15 years. That's the positive side. The negative side is not good news for our fine feathered friends.
The Altamont windmills spin fast this time of year. So, too, spin the minds of scientists charged with weighing the pros and cons of wind energy. A congressionally mandated study released last week says that as more states attempt to harness the wind, government should control more closely where windmills are allowed to sprout - perhaps saving birds and bats from being chopped up by blades as big as airplane wings.
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.
Wind turbines flourishing in California's Altamont and Tehachapi passes need tighter federal regulation, environmentalists told lawmakers Tuesday. Wind energy officials disagree. Thus the battle is joined, at a politically sensitive time. With tax credits up in the air and a long-awaited study arriving on how wind turbines kill birds and bats, strong opinions are blowing across Capitol Hill. As often happens, the central policy question pits rules against recommendations.
Alameda County supervisors approved a one-year monitoring system that would study the impacts of the Altamont Pass windmills on scores of birds, including golden eagles, red-tailed hawks, burrowing owls and other protected species. The $1.4 million price tag for the deal caused concern among the supervisors, who are afraid the cost of the study has spiraled out of control, but saying the study was necessary, they approved it unanimously Tuesday.