Wind Energy Industry Looks To Protect Eagles

December 15, 2013 by  
Filed under Wind Energy Tips

By Claire DeRoin

The wind industry cranks out a lot of energy, but it comes at a price: wind turbines are dangerous to birds. A new rule from the government aims to make things safer for them. There’s a new permit available to wind farmers that would protect them legally should an eagle be killed by their wind turbines. Some are saying it’s a free pass, but those in the wind industry say it’s anything but that.

Even though it looks like they’re moving slowly the tips of wind turbine blades are moving at over 100 miles per hour. That can mean trouble for birds, especially eagles. Their natural behavior makes them susceptible to collisions.

“It does a lot of soaring around looking for food,” explained environmental specialist Rocky Plettner, ”so they’re you might say preoccupied.”

That’s why the government is coming out with a new permit for wind farms. Good for 30 years, it allows companies immunity from prosecution if an eagle is killed or hurt by its turbines. Holding one such permit doesn’t negate responsibility, however. To attain the permit, wind farms have to meet with various agencies and come up with an eagle conservation plan. 

“One of the basics we ask of the wind developers is to consult with Nebraska Game and Parks and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” said Mark Becker with Nebraska Public Power District.

“There’s a lot of things that go into the plan,” Plettner said, ”to basically do everything you can to avoid and try to prevent an eagle from colliding.”

The overall aim is to negate the need for the incidental eagle take permits in the first place by locating wind farms where eagles are not. Despite the number of precautions a company takes, however, producers say birds will fly where they please.

“Certainly,” Plettner said, ”there are some things you just can’t avoid, and that’s what the permit is all about.”

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