Economics, Energy and the Environment

Blend the Birds, Tuppence a Bag…

Save the golden eagle! Save the bald eagle! Save the California condor!

We might want to chop them up with windmills one day.

That seems to be the moral of the story as the bird-kill situation is playing out around wind turbines.

Though wind-boosters like to downplay the bird kill issue, it’s quite real—even the pro-renewables Los Angeles Times can’t deny it:

Scores of protected golden eagles have been dying each year after colliding with the blades of about 5,000 wind turbines along the ridgelines of the Bay Area’s Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area, raising troubling questions about the state’s push for alternative power sources.

The death count, averaging 67 a year for three decades, worries field biologists because the turbines, which have been providing thousands of homes with emissions-free electricity since the 1980s, lie within a region of rolling grasslands and riparian canyons containing one of the highest densities of nesting golden eagles in the United States.

The Seattle Times points out that “wind-power turbines currently operating in Oregon and Washington kill more than 6,500 birds and more than 3,000 bats annually.” They also observe that the Altamont Pass is an avian blender:

These Altamont wind farms have consistently killed more raptors per megawatt of power than anywhere else in the nation. Despite efforts to modify these wind farms, surveys indicate the Altamont wind farms still kill more than 1,600 hawks, eagles and other raptors annually, according to Smallwood.

And now, apparently, California condors may come to face the killing blades. Forbes reports that the growing population of condors are spreading out, and are heading into areas planned for wind-farm development:

It’s a flight path that is taking the condor perilously closer to the spinning blades of Tehachapi wind turbines that depend on those same thermal currents to generate power; biologists fear it’s only a matter of time before the condor begins hitting the 500-foot-high machines.

Surely, you say, the government will put an end to this foolishness—after all, the endangered species act is practically a sacred text to environmentalists, who heavily support the current administration. And letting endangered species be minced by wind turbines would not only be anti-environmental, it might suggest that all the previous concern for such species was more about politics than environmental protection.

Or maybe not. As U.S. News reports:

The federal government is proposing to grant a first-of-its-kind permit that would allow the developer of a central Oregon wind-power project to legally kill golden eagles, a regulatory move being closely watched by conservationists.

The L.A. Times finds it inconceivable that such “take” permission would be given with regard to the condor, but then, I would bet that they would have found it inconceivable with regard to the golden eagle just a few years ago.


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