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Pattern Energy pulls plug on wind farm near Winters, citing risk to birds  

Credit:  By Rick Daysog, The Sacramento Bee, www.sacbee.com 23 November 2011 ~~

A San Francisco company said it has abandoned plans for a large-scale wind farm near Winters because the turbines could have harmed golden eagles, bald eagles and other local bird species.

Pattern Energy Group LP said the 100-megawatt project would have provided enough energy to light about 44,000 homes and would have created as many as 200 construction jobs.

But the company said Tuesday it decided to shelve the 2,000-acre project due to concerns about the potential impact to the local bird population.

“This would have been a strong source of wind power for California, which needs more renewable energy, but the right thing to do is abandon this project,” said company CEO Mike Garland.

Matt Dallas, company spokesman, said the project was at the midstage of development but that construction had not yet begun.

Dallas said the proposed wind farm has received appropriate permits but does not have a contract to sell power to any of the local utilities.

Such contracts are crucial to getting renewable projects off the ground, and both PG&E Corp. and the Sacramento Municipal Utility District are under pressure to meet new state mandates that they generate a third of their electricity from renewable sources.

PG&E, which currently gets about 16 percent of it electricity from green sources, and SMUD, which gets more than 20 percent of its power from green sources, are involved in major wind projects in Solano County.

Pattern’s proposed wind farm has largely gone under the news radar and hasn’t generated much controversy in the Yolo County political and environmental circles.

The company said it decided to stop building on its accord because mitigation efforts available for the local bird species do not meet its own high standards.

A spokeswoman for Yolo County had no comment, saying she was unaware of the details of the project.

Founded in 2009, Pattern is a leading wind power developer with operations in the United States, Canada and Latin America.

The company’s North America wind farms generate about 520 megawatts of electricity, and the company says it plans to double that output over the next 12 months.

While they’ve been welcomed as a source of clean power, wind turbines have created controversy because of their role in the deaths of many birds, particularly raptors. A study by the California Energy Commission estimated that between 1,766 and 4,721 birds are killed annually in the large wind facility on Altamont Pass.

Newer turbines move more slowly and are built to prevent birds from perching on them. Industry advocates say these changes have reduced mortality.

Source:  By Rick Daysog, The Sacramento Bee, www.sacbee.com 23 November 2011

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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