Politics & Policy

Eagles and Wind Turbines

Windfarm near Palm Springs, Calif. (David McNew/Getty Images)
The industry works hard to protect bald and golden eagles.

Regarding a recent entry in The Corner, the wind-energy industry is actually held to a higher standard when it comes to wildlife impacts than any other energy form or human activity.

In fact, studies have shown that wind energy has the lowest life-cycle environmental impacts of any source of utility-scale electricity generation, and we proudly operate under a longstanding legacy of care for all wildlife, including eagles.

No one takes wildlife impacts more seriously than the wind industry, and while unfortunately some eagles occasionally collide with turbines at some wind farms, this is not a common occurrence, with golden eagle losses at modern wind facilities representing only 2 percent of all reported sources of human-caused eagle fatalities, while only a few bald eagles have been lost in collisions in the history of the industry.

The eagle “take” permit, authorized under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, and created under the administration of President George W. Bush, was not developed for nor is it specific to the wind-energy industry, but rather available to all sources of human-caused eagle mortality. Specifically, it is designed for the express purpose of protecting eagle populations by providing much-needed conservation benefits in exchange for very limited take authorization.

Further, these permits are authorized only under carefully controlled conditions, after all steps have been taken to first avoid and minimize the potential for take to the greatest extent possible, and then fully offsetting the residual expected impacts through the implementation of significant mitigation measures.

In addition to mitigation, wind-facility developers and operators must agree to other stringent requirements in order to obtain an eagle permit, including the need to perform multiple years of pre- and post-construction monitoring, making changes to the project design at the request of the FWS, changing facility layout and operations at considerable expense, providing upfront mitigation for losses that may or may not occur, etc.

By undertaking these efforts, it is expected that the permit program will provide for the long-term conservation of eagle populations by addressing not only the permitted activity but also the impacts of others already occurring in the landscape today. 

We in the wind-energy industry look forward to the other, far more significant, sources of human-caused eagle fatalities following our lead in developing conservation plans to offset the impacts of our society and providing long-term protection for these majestic birds.

— John Anderson is the director of siting policy for the American Wind Energy Association.

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