The final version of a report begun more than five years ago on bird deaths and what to do about them in California's Altamont Pass wind farms was released last month. When repowering and replacing small 20 year old turbines, larger, taller, fewer and better placed machines would likely reduce the large number of bird kills, concludes the report by BioResource Consultants. The wind industry has presented the same argument for more than a decade. With the completion of the report, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) has dropped its lawsuit against the FPL Group, parent company of FPL Energy, and former Danish company NEG Micon, FPL's partner in its Altamont holdings. CBD filed the lawsuit because Alameda County's East County Board of Zoning Adjustments approved in January new long term conditional use permits for Altamont Pass wind farms without requiring a plan to tackle the bird deaths problem. CBD anticipates the report will constitute such a plan. About 5400 turbines now spinning at Altamont Pass are in line for repowering, with every seventh turbine being replaced by a single larger machine. The report found that the actual number of bird deaths is higher than previously believed: between 1766 and 4721 birds are killed each year, of which 881 to 1300 are raptors protected by state and federal law. The report also found that tubular towers will not necessarily lower bird deaths. Among its recommendations are ceasing a rodent control program, relocating dangerous turbines out of canyons and removing turbines that are not in operation. With these measures alone, fatalities could drop 20% to 40%, depending on the species, the report says.
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