CLEAN WIND ENERGY AT ALTAMONT PASS?
As an environmental organization, the Center for Biological Diversity supports the development of alternative energy sources as a way to reduce our impact on the environment, including reducing greenhouse emissions and protecting wildlife habitat. However, 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. We have a strong interest in making wind power cleaner and believe there are numerous changes that could be easily implemented at Altamont Pass by the wind power industry to significantly reduce these massive raptor kills. View the CBD’s recommendation for permit conditions to reduce and compensate for avian mortality.
Altamont Pass is the
most lethal wind farm in North America for raptors
Wind turbines at the Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area (APWRA) kill more birds of prey than any other wind facility in North America, due to their location on a major bird migratory route in an area with high concentrations of raptors, including the highest density of breeding golden eagles in the world. Research by raptor experts for the California Energy Commission (CEC) indicates that each year, Altamont Pass wind turbines kill an estimated 881 to 1,300 birds of prey, including more than 75 golden eagles, several hundred red-tailed hawks, several hundred burrowing owls, and hundreds of additional raptors including American kestrels, great horned owls, ferruginous hawks, and barn owls. These kills of over 40 different bird species are in violation of federal and state wildlife protection laws such as the Bald Eagle and Golden Eagle Protection Act, Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and several California Fish and Game Code provisions. View a fact sheet on the Altamont Pass bird kill issue.
have failed to implement known measures to reduce bird kills
The CEC has concluded that re-powering projects (replacing numerous outdated turbines with fewer turbines on taller towers, so that the blades are above most raptor flight patterns) have the best potential for reducing bird kills at APWRA. In an August 2004 report, raptor experts with the CEC recommended re-powering the APWRA and proposed that wind power companies implement a suite of mitigation measures to reduce bird kills at existing turbines as well as preserve off-site nesting habitat for raptors to compensate for ongoing unacceptable bird losses. Suggested mitigation measures for existing turbines include: retiring or relocating particularly lethal turbines; relocating and siting turbines into configurations less lethal to birds; retrofitting power poles to prevent bird electrocutions; increasing the visibility of turbines to birds; discontinuing the rodent poisoning program; and managing grazing to encourage rodent prey away from turbines. Despite the CEC’s recent conclusion that the risk to raptors at APWRA has increased over the past 15 years, the wind power companies at APWRA have failed to commit to these mitigations.
We can have
wind energy without decimating imperiled wildlife populations
There is scientific consensus that the industrialized world’s addiction to fossil fuels is causing irreversible climate change, altering ecosystems, and destroying biodiversity. Conservationists support the development of clean energy as an alternative to fossil fuel power plants, but impacts to wildlife should be reduced wherever possible. Potential sites for new wind energy projects should be reviewed for bird abundance, migration and use patterns, and wind farms should be designed and operated to prevent or minimize bird mortality. Where existing wind energy facilities are having adverse impacts on birds, as at Altamont Pass, these impacts should be fully mitigated. Turbine owners at APWRA must take reasonable measures to reduce bird kills and adequately compensate for impacts to imperiled bird populations. According to wind industry reports, the fiasco at Altamont Pass has hampered wind power development, as unresolved concerns about impacts to birds resulted in delays or discontinuation of other wind facilities.
Taking action on global warming and promoting alternative energy
The Center for Biological Diversity has been a leader in working toward a sustainable energy policy and taking on the U. S. government’s inaction on addressing global climate change. In 2002 and 2006 we won landmark cases under the 1992 Energy Security Act, compelling federal agencies to purchase thousands of alternative fuel vehicles. In 2006 we filed suit challenging the Bush administration’s inadequate new national gas mileage standards for gas-guzzling SUVs, minivans and light trucks. In 2003 we filed suit along with numerous State Attorney Generals and environmental groups under the Clean Air Act, challenging the Bush administration’s attempt to deny the Environmental Protection Agency authority to address global climate change by regulating heat-trapping emissions such as carbon dioxide. In 2005 we filed suit to rein in the EPA’s foot-dragging on regulating sulfur dioxide pollution from coal-fired power plants and oil refineries. We have petitioned for federal Endangered Species Act protection for several species threatened by ecosystem alteration due to the effects of global climate change. We are also fighting to protect our wildlands and wildlife habitat from oil and gas drilling, and are actively protecting dozens of imperiled species and wildlife habitat in and around the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, the Los Padres National Forest in southern California, and near Zuni Salt Lake in New Mexico.