Photo: Goodhue Wind
When all other efforts to stop the $179 million wind farm near Red Wing, Minn. failed, opponents said the turbines would be in prime bald eagle nesting territory, and federal officials listened.According to the Star Tribune, local residents were mainly concerned with the turbines being so close to their homes, stray electrical voltages, and the strobe-like shadows caused by the moving blades — but when they saw the results of a wildlife survey — they realised they held more leverage.
Wildlife officials are saying the developer could face federal criminal prosecution if a single bald eagle or even more rare, golden eagle falls prey to the spinning turbine blades.
“It comes down to whether they want to take on the risk or not,” said Richard Davis, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service who has monitored the project for two years. “I do think there is a higher likelihood of a strike in that area than any other wind project I’ve looked at in the state.”
Chuck Burdick, project director for the developer, AWA Goodhue Wind, said the company has been diligent in responding to the concerns raised by both federal and state wildlife officials. It’s done everything possible, he said, to site turbines where they will cause the least harm to flying wildlife, from long-eared bats to loggerhead shrikes to eagles. But all projects entail risks, he said, and the company plans to start construction this fall. “I don’t know that a wind farm has ever been built that didn’t result in some bird or bat mortality,” he said.
The dispute comes amid increasing scrutiny over the millions of birds and bats killed by wind farms every year and many companies are not making the stand Goodhue Wind is.
Xcel Energy pulled out of a North Dakota deal in April amid concern over two endangered birds — the piping clover and the whooping crane — leaving the electricity from that farm sitting unpurchased.
The new voluntary wildlife protection guidelines proposed by the Department of the Interior are being denounced by environmentalists as inadequate and calls for them to become mandatory are gaining volume.
The conflict is particularly pointed in Minnesota where state law requires utilities to derive 25 per cent of their energy from wind by 2020.
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