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United States

US issues voluntary guidance to avoid bird kills

UNITED STATES: The US Interior Department (DOI) has issued voluntary guidelines for onshore wind energy developers to avoid harm to birds and other wildlife.

The guidelines aim to protect birds such as the Golden Eagle
The guidelines aim to protect birds such as the Golden Eagle

The department’s Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has released draft guidance on site selection, construction, and operation and maintenance to help minimise impacts on federally protected birds, bats and other wildlife.

The guidelines set out a series of questions to aid developers in the process of collecting information, quantifying possible risks to wildlife and making decisions on whether a location is suitable for wind development.

The American Wind Energy Association welcomed the guidelines but said it expected to take issue with certain elements.

Director of siting policy John Anderson said: "We are concerned that portions of these proposals will negatively impact development from the standpoint of commercial viability and lack the flexibility to allow industry professionals to best site projects in the most efficient manner."

However, the American Bird Conservancy (ABC) warned that the fact the guidelines are voluntary will result in continued increases in bird deaths and habitat loss from wind farms.

"This action did not have to result in voluntary guidelines," said ABC vice-president Mike Parr. "DOI has the authority under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to enact regulations protecting migratory birds."

The guidelines will now be available for public comment for 90 days. The FWS has also released guidance for wind project developers assessing impacts on eagles protected by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and other federal laws.

In December NextEra Energy Resources was forced to take down all its wind turbines in California’s Altamont Pass in the next five years because of bird kills.

The company must pay $2.5 million in mitigation fees and replace about 2,400 turbines over the next four years, shutting down all existing turbines by 2015.

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