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Wind plan raises concern

Solano County’s latest wind farm project has one nonprofit group worried about the damage the turbines could do to birds, including protected species.

The concern centers on the proposed Montezuma II Wind Energy Project, which will consist of up to 34 turbines and other facilities, with a total energy generation capacity of up to 78.2 megawatts in the Montezuma Hills.

The Solano County Planning Commission is set to approve the 2,500-acre project Thursday night after a public hearing. If approved, the project could be completed by year’s end, said Mike Yankovich, county planning services manager.

But Friends of the Swainson’s Hawk, a Sacramento-based charitable organization concerned with wildlife conservation, is voicing concerns about the loss of wildlife associated with local wind energy projects.

Of particular concern to the group are the cumulative impacts of the project in combination with other existing wind farms in the Montezuma Hills.

The majestic stretch of rolling terrain along the banks of the Sacramento River Delta, south of Highway 12, is heavily used by Swainson’s hawks, say advocates for the “threatened” birds.

A 2007 raptor nesting survey of the region found 137 nesting pairs of raptors comprised of eight species, the group reported. Thirty-three “special status” nests were observed, including 11 Swainson’s hawk, 10 northern harrier, three white-tailed kite and two golden eagle nests.

The project’s final environmental report
reveals two Swainson’s hawks recently were killed by wind turbines in the area.

The group concluded in written comments that the project falls short of state law by failing to address the “expected cumulative fatalities” of birds and bats.

However, project consultants for the county and the applicant, Nextra Energy Montezuma II Wind, LLC, pledged to provide habitat for wildlife and birds elsewhere.

The planning commission meets at 7 p.m. Thursday in the board of supervisors chambers, 675 Texas St., Fairfield.