RICHLAND, Wash. When siting wind farms, it’s all about location. Where wind farms are built can have a dramatic effect on birds.
As in all real estate, it’s the location that’s key. Wind farms built as far as six or seven miles from a golden eagle nest could be harmful. That’s one reason why the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has created a voluntary “take permit” for golden eagles. The “take permit” would allow wind companies to kill, harass or disturb a limited number of golden eagles each year.
The plan may sound like it could be a bad deal for these raptors. The birds are shielded by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. But conservationists like the idea. They say it’s a step in the right direction to help monitor golden eagle deaths at wind farms.
Central Oregon’s first proposed wind farm, the West Butte Wind Project, is also the first in the nation to apply for a golden eagle “take permit.” West Butte will retrofit eleven power poles every year, the entire time the project is running, says project manager John Stahl. That will cost the company about $50,000 each year. If a golden eagle is killed at the wind farm, West Butte will have to retrofit eleven extra power poles.
No wind energy facility has ever been prosecuted for killing protected bald or golden eagles, or migratory birds. Here’s a look at several birds that can die at wind farms, and what causes their deaths.