Saturday, February 25, 2012

Green Wind Farm Applies for Permit to Kill Bald Eagles

I'd call that a metaphor.

But it's true:

Texas billionnaire T. W. Pickens is applying for a federal "license to kill" nesting bald eagles in Minnesota. His weapons of choice: the 48 wind turbines he wants to erect near Red Wing, a city on the  Mississippi River known for its  "enviable natural environment.”

Last Thursday, Minnesota residents who have been fighting this wind "farm" for years won a delay on its groundbreaking to give Pickens's company, AWA Goodhue Wind, a chance to finally produce an "an adequate plan to protect America's national symbol and other flying creatures." 
"I don't think that the American people are ready to watch Minnesota's nesting bald eagles be destroyed on behalf of a Texas millionaire," said Mary Hartman, a local resident.
However, if Pickens gets his kill permit, he won't have to worry about protecting eagles and other flying creatures. And why wouldn't he? There seems to be an exemption waiting in the Obama administration for just about anyone willing to fly the green flag. In this case, the exemption from laws protecting endangered species would come from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which reportedly originated the idea:
Goodhue Wind has recently conceded that the project would probably harm an unknown number of eagles, and has started an application for a federal permit that would legally allow it to kill the birds. The permit is a new strategy by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to manage the often-lethal conflict between birds and turbine blades. Only one other wind project has applied -- West Butte Power Project in Oregon -- but no permits have been granted.

The decision to develop such permits is controversial among environmental and bird conservation groups. "The public cares deeply about bald eagles," Fuller said. "I've never met anyone who thinks it's a good idea to kill bald eagles. They are special birds."

Even the utilities commissioners expressed some discomfort with the idea at Thursday's hearing. Commissioner J. Dennis O'Brien called it "a license to kill."

"Every fall I apply for a duck hunting license," O'Brien said. "You will have a license to kill up to a specified number of eagles."
That "specified number" could get really high

According to a 2004 California Energy Commission report, spinning "windmill" blades at the Altamont Wind Resource Area in California kill several thousand (up to around 5,000) wild birds per year, especially golden eagles, red-tailed hawks, American kestrels, and burrowing owls, but also waterfowl and songbirds with formerly glorious voices. Any critter flying by. 
There's nothing like getting sucked up by a wind turbine and then being chopped to bits with a dull blade to help reduce CO2. Greenies call these incidents "avian collisions."
Also in danger are the local bat population. Wind "farms" are B-A-D for eagles, but even worse for bats,
useful little mammals that dine on mosquitoes and other bugs at night while you sleep and live otherwise peaceful, non-invasive lives for about 30 years, producing a couple of offspring a year, unless they wander into the turbulence of a wind turbine, where the changed air pressure does truly horrible and wicked things to their bodies that are definitely not in Nature's scheme. At two wind "farms" in Virginia, researchers estimated that about 3,000 bats suffered a terrible fate in a mere six weeks, the length of the study.
Who would be keeping track of the number of eagles, bats, and other winged critters destroyed by the (let's face it) least efficient of renewable energy sources? That's a little problem right there.

Bald eagles for accurate nest counts
Minnesota observers have testified that Goodhue Wind has been doing a pretty poor job of it up to this point. For one thing, the Goodhue Wind eagle surveys counted fewer eagle nests in the killer turbine radius than citizens did, and the technology Goodhue Wind used to monitor bat calls during their bat population survey worked only about half the time--hardly a track record that instills confidence in the company's devotion to environmental concerns.

From Climate Gate to Capn' Tax to Solindra and beyond, every day that goes by produces more evidence that the race for green energy is really a push for the old dough-re-me.

Addendum: Interested? Watch this video about the fast tracking of wind energy in Minnesota, and coming to a neighborhood near you (via blog commenter Rick Conrad @ Goodhue County Wind Energy).

Hat tip: Minnesotans for Global Warming


  1. Most of Goodhue Wind's problems can be traced back to the renewable energy standard and the a distributed renewable generation study that identified that 39 megawatts of existing excess grid capacity ,each, at the Vasa and Goodhue substations, for a total of 78 megawatts. This coupled with the PTC federal production tax credit which later evolved into the 1603 stimulus grant program motivated Goodhue Wind to seek to build a 78 megawatt project to receive the maximum incentive benefits. The developers also pretended to be a C-BED community energy project to receive an additionally higher wholesale price for the power produced by their project. But ,as everyone is now realizing, claiming to be community based and enlisting the support of the community are two different things. This C-BED project had almost no community ownership and even less community support. The greed of project developers kept them from offering adequate compensation to participants while at the same time they signed landowners to wind leases that turned over other landowner rights besides wind rights. The implications of these "wind" contracts have not yet been completely explored. Bad wind contracts motivated by greed to maximize their profits resulted in the developers only being able to sign about one third of the land in their footprint. This resulted in a tripling of the total footprint size. Which in turn more than tripled the number of non-participants affected and greatly increased the environmental impacts. The overt greed of the developers combined with the environmental impacts and the detrimental effects to non-participants property values(negative 25 to 40%) made this a life and death struggle between the community and the developers.

  2. @Rick -- Thank you for commenting. Policies that sound good in a political speech or a 5th-grade classroom don't necessarily meet the test of real-world feasibility. People like yourself who experience the local effects of wind energy legislation are getting the real education about renewable energy that we all need to hear about.

  3. The Pickins household must be a peaceful place these days. Pickins' wife, Madeline is an animal rights activist who has spent many years fighting the BLM to stop destroying the mustang population. Seems a bit askew....