AWEA says wind industry working to protect birds

On the heels of a Duke Energy (NYSE:DUK) settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice over golden eagle deaths, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) says the wind industry is serious about reducing bird deaths around wind towers.

Justice and Duke Energy Renewables said Nov. 22 that Duke had agreed to pay $1m in fines and other fees while embarking on efforts to minimize bird deaths around two major wind projects in Wyoming. It was part of an agreement that came as Duke pleaded guilty to violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) in U.S. District Court in Wyoming.

“While we cannot speak to the specifics of this case as they are not public, based on our understanding of the settlement agreement this is a clear example of a wind company taking responsibility for unforeseen impacts to wildlife and providing conservation measures to not only offset those impacts, but also with respect to other sources of impact existing in the landscape today,” AWEA said in a statement.

“It is worth keeping in mind that the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act has broad implications,” AWEA said Nov. 22. “Essentially anyone who kills even one bird, either knowingly or unknowingly could face prosecution for violating the act. The wind energy industry continues to do more than any other industry of which we are aware to study potential impacts before construction, make changes to plans to avoid and minimize those impacts, study operational impacts and mitigate them.”

Since the implementation of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Land-based Wind Energy Guidelines in May 2012, wind developers “coordinate more closely than ever with the USFWS throughout the siting process,” AWEA said in the statement posted on its website.

“At the end of the day, no one takes the issue of wildlife impacts more seriously than the wind industry, and the industry does more to study, monitor, and mitigate for the impacts associated with project development and operation than any other energy sector,” AWEA said.

The case against Duke, and the resulting settlement, concern the company’s 200-MW Top of the World wind project and the 99-MW Campbell Hill project, both located in Glenrock, Wyo.

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Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.