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United States

Condor habitat left in peace

After a furore that sparked national publicity, an agreement has been reached over a 18.75 MW wind farm plan by Enron Wind for Tejon Pass in California that opponents say might have interfered with endangered condors. In a settlement announced last month, the planned project has been relocated to an area farther from the bird's "critical habitat."

The agreement was hammered out between Enron Wind, National Audubon Society (NAS), the country's largest bird protection group, and the property company Tejon Ranch Co, from which Enron had leased the controversial site since 1982. Enron has now ended its lease on the original site, on a ridgetop near Gorman and Interstate 5. In return, it is leasing another site from Tejon Ranch about ten miles from Tehachapi Pass. "Enron Wind has again clearly proven that it is a company committed to protecting the environment and the region's wildlife," says Dan Beard of NAS.

In September NAS made national headlines with a dramatic advertising campaign warning that a wind farm there could become a "condor Cuisinart." With the financial backing of Tejon Ranch, NAS also attempted to use legislative means to prevent any wind farms in or near condor habitat from receiving the Production Tax Credit, if it were extended (Windpower Monthly, October 1999).

Better resource

The US Fish & Wildlife Service does not formally comment on potential projects, but the issue became so heated a biologist visited the new site to assist with a settlement. The service's Greg Austin says condors seem to use the new site "very infrequently." In contrast they used the Gorman site heavily, according to the agency's historical data.

What is less clear is how the new site's wind resource compares with that of the old one. "We really don't know anything about it," says Enron Wind's Ken Karas. But he says the site could well be as windy as the original and the company has had its eye on it for ten years or so. The potential, he says, could be as high as 60 MW. The new site is not on a ridgetop but in the saddle of a small pass through which the wind is funnelled. Anemometers have already been set up. Development will probably not take place until the second half of 2001.

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