A wind energy company building a 126-tower wind farm on private land in north-central Montana has agreed to move 25 of the towers farther away from raptor nests.
NaturEner and Montana Audubon announced last week that the towers at the $400 million Rim Rock Wind Farm will be moved a half mile away from the Kevin Rim, identified as a key raptor area by the Bureau of Land Management. The Kevin Rim has been known to harbor up to 60 active nests of 10 raptor species in a given year, Montana Audubon said in a statement. The Audubon chapter reported that 27 of the turbines were too close to raptor nests, primarily Ferruginous Hawk.
Montana Audubon said NaturEner agreed to make the changes after they had started construction on the wind farm about 20 miles northwest of Shelby.
How did Montana Audubon manage to achieve this?
This a heart-warming story. According to Audublog:
In discussions with Montana Audubon, it was revealed that the energy was being sold to and transmitted to San Diego Gas & Electric, also an investor in the project. George (Garry George, Audubon California’s renewable energy project director) connected Montana Audubon to San Diego Audubon, which recently had won a $100,000 Environmental Champions award from San Diego Gas & Electric as part of new policy to reach out to environmental groups.
San Diego Audubon asked the power company why it was purchasing energy from a project outside of California that did not meet the California guidelines standards on buffer zones for raptors. San Diego Gas & Electric responded that it was limited in what it could do, as the company was not the developer on the project. But soon afterwards, NaturEner, the developer, contacted Montana Audubon to discuss the turbines and the raptors, and in August the chapter and the developer entered into an MOU to move 25 turbines further away from the raptor nests.
Wow! Fantastic news that an energy company is willing to listen to a conservation group and respond to their concerns.
NaturEner and Montana Audubon also signed a memorandum of understanding stating the two groups will continue to work together on the project to mitigate the effects on birds and bats.
“Rim Rock and Montana Audubon agree to maintain open communications related to the project and wildlife impacts,” the memo states. “In addition, in order to maintain good faith between the parties, Rim Rock and Montana Audubon also agree to make reasonable efforts to confer with each other before issuing any public statements about the other party in the interest of ensuring accuracy of information.”
The danger that wind turbines cause to birds has been a concern for some time now.
The Los Angeles Times has reported that about 70 golden eagles are being killed per year by the wind turbines at Altamont Pass, about 20 miles east of Oakland, California. And turbines are also killing bats by the thousands.
So it is wonderful to hear of an energy company paying attention to this issue. Thank you, NaturEner.
You can see here what can happen when a bird meets a wind turbine:
Photo Credit: Ron Wolf