Library filed under Impact on Wildlife from California
An Alameda County Superior Court judge has dismissed a lawsuit against wind-farm operators in the Altamont Pass that claimed windmill operators had violated state law by killing migratory birds in the area. Judge Bonnie Sabraw ruled Thursday the operators were not in violation of the states unfair competition law because the Center for Biological Diversity, which filed the suit in 2004, did not lose property or money. The center had claimed the birds were part of the public trust and therefore wildlife property of the public.
Alameda County supervisors approved the initial phase of a monitoring system that will study the impact the Altamont windmills have on scores of birds — including golden eagles, red tail hawks, burrowing owls and other protected species. The board unanimously approved the $610,000, six-month program after hesitating in July to support a $3 million, three-year plan to monitor bird deaths in the Altamont. At that July meeting, supervisors agreed to cap the program — to be paid for by the turbine operators in the Altamont — at $2 million, saying costs for the monitoring had spiraled out of control. The monitoring program will be a collaborative operation of UC Santa Cruz, WEST Inc. and Jones & Stokes, the top three bidders for the project. The group will monitor avian deaths at the 5,400 windmills east of Livermore.
Under pressure from environmental activist groups such as Defenders of Wildlife and the Los Angeles Audubon Society, the California Energy Commission on August 10 released bird and bat protection guidelines for local wind power permitting agencies. Although the guidelines are neither mandatory nor enforceable, the move represents growing concern that industrial wind farms are taking an unacceptable toll on bird and bat populations. The most recent avian mortality studies show between 1,750 and 4,700 birds are killed every year at California's Altamont Pass wind farm alone. Similar mortality numbers are reported at industrial wind farms in Solano County and other parts of the state. The Los Angeles Audubon Society says there is a lack of research into how industrial wind farms, many of which are located in migratory flyways, affect songbird flight patterns. The group is seeking a moratorium on turbine operation for several hours each day during the spring and autumn migration seasons.
The California Energy Commission will host a two-day workshop in Bakersfield later this month to develop statewide guidelines that protect birds and bats from death or injury from running into the whirling blades of the state’s thousands of windmills. The issue has seen extensive legal action over windmills in the Altamont Pass, which connects the Central Valley to the Bay Area. “Currently, wind projects are handled at the local level; there are no statewide guidelines in place to help reduce the impacts of wind development on birds and bats,” says Energy Commissioner John Geesman.
After balking at a $3 million plan to monitor the impact of the Altamont windmills on scores of birds -- including protected species such as golden eagles, red tail hawks and burrowing owls -- the Alameda County Board of Supervisors is expected to approve a down-sized monitoring plan today. The proposed $600,000 contract, scaled back from a monitoring system proposed in July, calls for 6,000 hours of monitoring in a six-month period and is expected to be only the initial phase in a longer study. The previous plan called for more than 12,000 hours. According to a study released in 2004 by the California Energy Commission, an estimated 1,700 to 4,700 birds die each year by flying into whirring turbine blades or being electrocuted by transmission lines that thread through the 50,000-acre Altamont Wind Resource Area.
Windmills have also caused an influx of rats in and around her home, she said, because the turbines are killing the birds and hawks that feast on them. "I have trapped over 100 rats in and around my house in the last year and a half," Manley said. "We celebrate when we see a hawk. We used to see them all the time."
Instead of approving a proposed three-year research program that would track bird deaths and injuries, supervisors Tuesday unanimously agreed to let a newly appointed five-member scientific review committee decide on the parameters of such a program. The supervisors also agreed to cap spending on the program -- which will be funded by Altamont turbine operators -- at $2 million.
Nothing in nature is ever quite that simple.
BAY AREA: Grazing to trim grasses to a level that discourages ground squirrels may cut raptor deaths from wind farms
ALTAMONT PASS: Alameda County hires team of consultants rather than have one do it alone
OAKLAND - It's like asking a scientist employed by an oil company to study pollution in San Francisco Bay. That was the analogy used by environmentalists Thursday as they argued against hiring a wind energy consultant to conduct a sweeping study of bird deaths at the Altamont Pass windmills.
Davis, CA (AHN) - The noise from wind farms in California are making squirrels prone to scurry for cover.
Oakland, Calif. – The Alameda County Planning Department is recommending that long-time wind industry paid consultant and advocate WEST, Inc. serve as the so-called “neutral” scientific monitor for avian deaths caused by the Altamont Pass wind turbines, despite a clear and continuing financial conflict of interest.
Olds was afraid that by installing the electricity-generating equipment as a demonstration project at the Marina, the city would be promoting wind turbines, which would send the wrong message to the public. So Olds added a stipulation to which the council agreed: before accepting the Southwest Wind Power turbine, the Golden Gate Audubon Society would have to give its O.K. to the project. It did so on Wednesday, with a caveat—GGAS asked the city to monitor the turbine and to remove it if it killed birds.
Daniel R. Patterson, a desert ecologist with the Center for Biological Diversity in Joshua Tree, said it's a "common belief" that bird deaths caused by turbines could lead to rat infestations. But he said he hasn't studied the issue.
Calling it "our baby," the panel overseeing the Department of Water and Power moved forward Tuesday with the Pine Tree Wind Project, approving a pair of environmental and construction deals related to the $278 million initiative.p The venture has been held up as an example of both the promise and peril associated with the growing use of "green power," which is one of the top priorities of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's new Board of Water and Power Commissioners.
...some wind power facilities, such as the Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area (APWRA) in eastern Alameda and Contra Costa Counties, California, are causing severe environmental impacts to raptor populations due to bird kills from collisions with turbines and electrocution on power lines.
Wind turbines in the Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area (APWRA) provide on average 1.1 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of emissions-free electricity annually, enough to power almost 200,000 average households per annum, but these turbines also kill birds that are legally protected, and have been doing so for decades. This five-year research effort focused on better understanding the causes of bird mortality at the world's largest wind farm. Researchers studied 2,548 wind turbines and combined their data with results from 1,526 wind turbines they had studied previously. They sought to: (1) quantify bird use, including characterizing and quantifying perching and flying behaviors of individual birds around wind turbines; (2) evaluate flight behaviors and the environmental and topographic conditions associated with them; (3) identify possible relationships between bird mortality and bird behaviors, wind tower design and operations, landscape attributes, and prey availability; and (4) develop predictive, empirical models that identify turbine or environmental conditions that are associated with high vulnerability. Researchers concluded that bird fatalities at the APWRA result from various attributes of wind turbine configuration and placement, and that species-specific behavior plays a large role in how each contributory factor affects mortality. The report details numerous specific observations. Researchers identified and evaluated possible measures to mitigate bird mortality in the APWRA. They offer recommendations to discontinue or modify some current management actions, to implement new ones immediately, and to experiment with others. Data presented in the report support these recommendations. The results suggest that repowering with carefully placed, modern wind turbines mounted on taller towers may be the preferable means to substantially reduce bird mortality.
The commission unanimously voted down the proposal after a five-hour hearing attended by more than 150 people at Santa Clarita City Hall. Zond Systems, the largest producer of wind energy in California, had hoped to erect more than 300 windmills--some as tall as 150 feet--on vacant, mountainous land near Gorman.