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The U.S. Federal government is set to issue permits to wind farms that could end the lives of thousands of Bald Eagles—the bird that has served as the symbol of the Nation since 1782.
The rule is set to go into effect on January 15, shortly before President-Elect’s inauguration, and would extend existing permits for wind farms that serves as a pass for accidentally ending the lives of bald and golden eagles. The permits are currently for a five-year term, and will be extended to a hefty thirty years.
The permits are required by any wind farm operating in the United States, because eagles, along with other birds, often fly into wind farm turbines, which hurtle them through the air.
About 545 golden eagles die each year due to collisions, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service, but this figure, according to the agency, includes collisions with vehicles and other moving objects—not just wind turbines. The figures for the Bald Eagles was unavailable, but hundreds of deaths for a single eagle species each year is in line with Trump’s comment in May that said “…the windmills are killing hundreds and hundreds of eagles…. They’re killing them by the hundreds.”
Politico chastised Trump for what they called his exaggeration.
No one really knows how many eagles—or any bird for that matter—are killed by wind turbines each year, but the National Audubon Society estimates that up to 328,000 birds meet their untimely death this way. Complicating the true tally, each wind farm is responsible for keeping tabs on how many deaths are attributed to each turbine, and they are only required to scour the area within a certain radius of the turbine to find dead birds.
The Fish and Wildlife Agency has calculated that roughly 4,200 fatalities could be sustained by the Bald Eagle species before it would be endangered, and 2,000 fatalities could be sustained by the Golden Eagle species before it was endangered, thus the reasoning behind the extended permits.
It's unclear how each wind farm is supposed to keep track of the exact number of deaths, and what the penalties would be to wind farms should they exceed the number specified on the permit.
The National Audubon Society expressed their disappointment with the length of the term. “As an organization we think a 30-year term is unreasonable, especially when we’re still learning about the impacts of wind and other technology on wildlife," said Sarah Greenberger, VP of conservation.
What they have learned so far about birds and wind turbines is that there is a lot left to be discovered as to the effects on wildlife, most notably birds. It is clear that proper siting is critical, as evidenced by the ill-placed wind farm in Altamont Pass, California, which is located near a major avian migration route and is responsible for tens of thousands of bird deaths since the ‘60s.
Wind farms are not the only form of alternative energy that has come under scrutiny in recent months, with the Ivanpah Solar Plant in Nevada incinerating birds that fly into the concentrated beams of sunlight produced by the solar panels, killing 6,000 birds annually.
By Julianne Geiger for Oilprice.com
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Julianne Geiger is a veteran editor, writer and researcher for Oilprice.com, and a member of the Creative Professionals Networking Group.