Wind Power Clipping Wings

Wind power provides substantial environmental benefits, not the least of which is that it produces electricity without emitting greenhouse gases or traditional air pollutants.  It can also be useful source of distributed power.  But (like anything else) it also has its drawbacks, such as its unsuitability for baseload power and (as some environmentalists are increasingly realizing) the threat it poses to birds.  The federal government estimates wind power kills almost one-half million birds per year — a number that will dramatically increase if wind power expands in accord with the federal government’s plans. Those areas best for wind production are often those areas that pose the greatest risk to birds.

Today’s Washington Post reports on a Fish & Wildlife Service investigation of the deaths of several golden eagles at a California wind farm.

Over nearly 30 years, none of the nation’s 500 wind farms, where 35,000 wind turbines operate mostly on private land, have been prosecuted for killing birds, although long-standing laws protect eagles and a host of migrating birds.

If the ongoing investigation by the Fish and Wildlife Service’s law enforcement division results in a prosecution at Pine Tree, it will be a first. The conservancy wants stronger regulations and penalties for the wind industry, but the government has so far responded only with voluntary guidelines.

The story also notes that the guidelines have been watered down to accommodate industry complaints. The LA Times has more here.