California Energy Commission (CEC) staff are proposing a $750,000 three-year study of bird issues in Palm Springs and Tehachapi. The CEC proposal would be a collaborative effort between state and federal agencies, the wind industry, and environmental groups, says the CEC's wildlife ecologist Dick Anderson. The agency hopes to contribute $330,000 and the remainder would be cost shared from industry and the Department of Energy, says Anderson.
The amount of CEC support will be considered on November 16 by agency commissioners at a business meeting. So far, money has been earmarked in this year's budget but nothing has been approved, notes Anderson. If less money is obtained, the study might have to be restricted to one of the two geographical wind farm areas. Tehachapi and Palm Springs are being targeted as the Altamont Pass is already being studied and may not be typical, he says. Bird kills, especially of endangered raptors, have become a major issue for wind. Studies have enumerated potentially significant numbers of deaths in the Altamont Pass. "Right now the issue is a barrier, delay and expense [to wind development] throughout the nation," he says. There is also concern about potentially significant bird kills in southern Spain.
"We think it's important that a very credible study is done in both Tehachapi and San Gorgonio," says Anderson. "We have the feeling we're going to find less raptor kills, though there may be more smaller birds (killed) in San Gorgonio. But we don't know this -- and the study will be completely objective." Input into the methodology of the study is coming from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The study will be submitted to the new avian sub-committee, set up after this summer's bird summit in Colorado, before it is initiated.