The California Energy Commission will host a two-day workshop in Bakersfield later this month to develop statewide guidelines that protect birds and bats from death or injury from running into the whirling blades of the state’s thousands of windmills.
The issue has seen extensive legal action over windmills in the Altamont Pass, which connects the Central Valley to the Bay Area.
“Currently, wind projects are handled at the local level; there are no statewide guidelines in place to help reduce the impacts of wind development on birds and bats,” says Energy Commissioner John Geesman.
“A collaborative effort can solve this problem that is occurring on a national scale,” he says.
California was the first state to develop large wind farms, beginning in the early 1980s. As of July 2006, California has installed over 2,323 megawatts of wind power, which is enough electricity to power almost 700,000 homes. One megawatt of wind capacity supplies enough power for 240 to 300 homes.
California’s major wind energy resources are in three areas: Altamont Pass, San Gorgonio Pass (near Palm Springs), and Tehachapi, southeast of Bakersfield.
Ninety-five percent of all California’s wind generating capacity and output are produced at these three areas.
There are more than 3,600 windmills in the Altamont Pass area alone. Last year, Alameda County supervisors voted to require operators to shut down the machines for two months each winter to lessen the machines’ impact on migrating birds.
It has been estimated that the windmills slice up nearly 5,000 birds a year.
The workshop is scheduled for Sept. 27-28 at the Ray Dezember Leadership Development Center at California State University, Bakersfield.
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