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State grapples with windmills vs. birds issue

The California Energy Commission voted 3-0 Wednesday to approve voluntary guidelines to help reduce bird and bat deaths at wind turbines.

The guidelines are meant to protect wildlife as the state moves to produce 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2010.

Bird kills by the whirling blades have been the subject of lawsuits and injunctions in recent years.

The mountainous borders of the Central Valley are the location of thousands of the giant windmills.

More than 13,000 of California’s wind turbines, or 95 percent of all of California’s wind generating capacity and output, are located in three primary regions – Altamont Pass (east of San Francisco between San Joaquin County and Alameda County; Tehachapi (south east of Bakersfield between Kern County and Los Angeles County) and San Gorgonio, near Palm Springs, east of Los Angeles, according to the commission.

“These voluntary guidelines are designed to help local and regional officials who issue permits for wind-energy projects,” says Energy Commissioner John Geesman. “We very much need to accelerate the development of wind energy in California, and these guidelines are meant to allow this progress while being sensitive to potential negative impacts on birds and bats.”

The voluntary guidelines make recommendations to counties and cities that review and license wind farms and permit the replacement of old wind turbines with larger, more efficient ones.

The guidelines provide information about what is needed to satisfy the California Environmental Quality Act and to address other laws, including state and federal wildlife laws, the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and the state and federal endangered species acts.

Download the report here: CEC-700-2007-008-CTF (7.34 MB PDF)

Central Valley Business Times

27 September 2007