[social_buttons]Oregon-based Iberdrola Renewables has adopted what is arguably the most holistic policy to protect avian and bat populations in the wind energy industry. The plan is modeled in part after the 2005 avian protection plan template (pdf) developed by the Edison Institute and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to address the impacts of transmission and distribution lines on birds.
Currently, 836 species of migratory birds are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Many birds and bats are also protected by the Endangered Species Act and other federal and state wildlife statutes. The Iberdrola Renewables’ plan establishes internal processes that will help the company responsibly develop wind energy while addressing wildlife concerns.
What exactly does the plan do? According to the release:
“IBERDROLA RENEWABLES’ plan contains a corporate policy about wildlife protection and establishes a process for contact with agencies and non-governmental organizations early in the site assessment stage of project evaluation. It also sets up internal policies for pre- and post-construction monitoring and proper site design, impact assessment, permit compliance, nest management, training, mortality reduction measures and mitigation. It supports IBERDROLA RENEWABLES’ efforts on research and includes sections on quality control, public awareness, cost and implementation.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service commended Iberdrola Renewables for seeking ways to minimize bird and bat deaths at their wind turbine facilities. USFWS Director H. Dale Hall says the plan’s principles “will reduce risk to birds and liability under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.”
The plan is designed to mitigate or eliminate avian-collision problems that plague projects like the ones at California’s Altamont Pass. Altamont Pass is both home to and provides migration territory for many sensitive avian species including golden eagles, the red-tailed hawk and others. According to The Center for Biological Diversity, wind turbines at Altamont Pass kill (pdf) an estimated 880 to 1,300 birds of prey each year, including up to 116 golden eagles, 300 red-tailed hawks, 380 burrowing owls, and additional hundreds of other raptors including kestrels, falcons, vultures, and other owl species.
Iberdrola’s plan moves beyond mitigating for migratory birds, it also considers wind farm effects on bat populations. Bats in Colorado, Minnesota, Oregon, Wisconsin and Wyoming have been found dead due to collisions with the turbine blades and support structure. However, bat related fatalities were not raised as a serious concern until 2004, when hundreds of bats turned up dead at wind farms in West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Further research at these and other sites has found that localized changes in air pressure caused by wind turbines were killing bats without even hitting them.
“Environmental protection is integral to how we conduct company business,” said Terry Hudgens, CEO of Iberdola. “Implementing this plan will help us reduce our impacts on birds and bats and help us do a better job of expanding wind energy as an important source of electricity in the United States.”
This is not the first time Iberdrola has made headlines concerning the company’s ecologically-sensitive approach to wind farm development. Back in June, the company delayed a wind farm in New York until the devastating impacts of white nose syndrome on bat populations could be better understood.
Tim is the founder of ecopolitology and the executive editor at LiveOAK Media where he writes regularly about the politics of energy and the environment, green business and clean tech. When not reading, writing, thinking or talking about environmental politics with anyone who will listen, Tim spends his time skiing in Colorado's high country, hiking with his dog, and getting dirty in his vegetable garden.