The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is asking for help in investigating the death of a golden eagle found in January near a turbine at a wind farm built recently in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada range about 12 miles northeast of Tehachapi.
“We are asking individuals as well as wind energy companies with information or knowledge about the death of eagles that may have been killed due to contact with wind turbines to contact us,” said Jill Birchell, special agent in charge of the agency’s law enforcement office for California and Nevada.
The North Sky River Wind Energy Project is owned by a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources LLC, a major energy development company based in Juno Beach, Fla.
Company officials could not be reached Friday, March 15, but Kern County planning records say the project involved building 102 turbines up to 500 feet tall. The turbines were expected to provide enough electricity for about 40,000 homes.
None of the energy companies operating in the Tehachapi area have permits to “take” eagles, which are protected by the federal Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, according to Fish and Wildlife.
“Take” means to kill, injure or harass a protected plant or animal. For renewable energy projects, permits can be issued for recurring take over a specified period of time up to five years.
“Un-permitted take of eagles is the illegal take of eagles,” Birchell said in a news release. “We want power companies or any company involved in planning to build wind generation facilities in the Tehachapi range, where a significant golden eagle population exists, to contact the Service well in advance of construction and work with our biologists to develop conservation plans that will avoid take of eagles to the extent practical and serve as the basis for an application to lawfully take eagles for companies who proceed with wind development in this area.”
As energy developers continue to tap California’s wildlands for big wind and solar projects, I expect to see more such conflicts with wildlife.
The BrightSource Energy project under construction near the Nevada border has displaced more than 100 desert tortoises, a species threatened with extinction. There also are new concerns that heat from some solar development could burn birds.
And, a Rialto-based Assembly member wants make it easier for wind and solar energy developers to move nesting birds that get in the way of transmission-line upgrades needed to link the renewable energy to the grid.
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