News and analysis about energy in California with an eye toward renewables.

NextEra Responds on North Sky River Eagle Death

ReWire reported Tuesday that we'd learned the North Sky River wind facility in Kern County had been the site of an eagle death, a month after it opened for business. On Wednesday, North Sky River's owner -- Florida-based energy developer NextEra -- offered us a comment on the eagle's death.

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We offered comment on the eagle death in Tuesday's piece from Ileene Anderson of the Center for Biological Diversity, which had sued to block the project, but not from the "other side"; due to our rapid publication turnaround and the time-zone difference between NextEra's Florida headquarters and us here in California, NextEra was unable to respond before we hit "publish."

Fortunately for the interests of thorough coverage, however, NextEra was able to get to us early Wednesday morning, with an email from NextEra's Communications Director Steve Stengel. In that email, Steve offered NextEra's formal comment on the January 29 eagle mortality:

The North Sky River Wind Project was developed utilizing the best available technology to minimize its impact on the environment.
  • We conducted two years of extensive pre-construction biological monitoring (including birds and bats) ;
  • Engaged a raptor expert to conduct a behavior and use model for golden eagles to site turbines to minimize risk;
  • Installed bird deflectors and anti-perching devices on our transmission lines;
  • Conducted two years of aerial surveys so that we would understand where golden eagle nests may be located; and
  • Voluntarily initiated radar R&D project to determine radar's effectiveness of detecting golden eagles and California condors. Unfortunately, despite our extensive efforts, we cannot guarantee that our site will never impact avian species, but we have worked very hard, and acted in good faith to minimize or avoid any impacts.

We have begun a four year monitoring program so that we will understand very well any impacts to the environment from this project that may occur and mitigate if necessary.

The North Sky River project, on 12,781 acres of private lands northwest of the town of Mojave, will top out at 297 megawatts of power when completed: roughly the same output as a mid-sized gas-fired plant, when the wind is blowing at the right speed. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has calculated that the neighboring Pine Tree wind facility, a Los Angeles Department of Water and Power project, caused 11.8 bird fatalities per megawatt in the first year of monitoring; if North Sky River turns out to be of comparable hazard, that's about 3,500 birds per year counting on NextEra's good-faith hazard mitigation. Here's hoping their risk reduction works.

[Note: this article has been corrected. A previous version incorrectly stated that the North Sky River project was on public lands. We regret the error.]

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About the Author

Chris Clarke is a natural history writer and environmental journalist currently at work on a book about the Joshua tree. He lives in Joshua Tree.
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Well the comment is sweet, well rehearsed, and we appreciate your efforts.

Kern County cares too, after providing Alternate C on April 27, 2011 for comments to reduce 23 turbines in the most environmentally sensitive areas.

Lets recall the Pine Tree Project is next door.... Case study.... A research or experiment facility, however one wishes to consider....

All the studies paid for indicated no major impacts to be expected, all opposition forecasted the opposite, Kern County reduced public speaking time on September 13, 2011 during the hearing.

Curious how it still notes 297MW when completed when RECHARGE News noted the PPA was signed for 163MW with and expected capacity of 35% equating to a wimpy 57.05MW. The Board of Supervisors had issues with their calculator and approved it for 339MW on Sept 13, 2011. Or perhaps it refers to BLM California application CACA 047847 by Boulevard Associates, LLC on 9,706 acres adjacent to the North Sky River Project site noted as North Sky River Type II, approved for wind testing. The original application was in 2005.
This would equate to even more future well planned surveyed aerialed accounted for foreseen aluminum cans on a wire whistle blowing smoke dead eagles to come in the future from North Sky River Type II.

As far as a case study, research or experiment facility, it now fits with the Pine Tree, a recent East County Magazine Article this week and an Eagle Meeting at RES Americas on November 29, 2012.

One other story that sparks my memory of eagles is the recent one in Canada and a nest being cut down, any similarity?

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Looks like the best available technology is not doing anything to minimize the impact on the environment. One eagle dead within a month of operation and estimates of 11.8 fatalities per megawatt right next door . Combined fatality estimate of 3500 in the first year! This kind of death toll is reminicent of DDT.
Do these projects have an ITP?
It is high time the federal governmet uphold the Bald & Golden Eagle Protection Act. The wind industry needs to be held responsible just like any other industry. It is time to prosecute.

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NextEra's dandy mitigation plan fell flat on it's face. The turbines are now subject to being shut down. This time place retrofitted protective shields on every single of equipment to prevent a single bird or bat from being slaughtered by the blades.

By the way, I read the studies that NextEra placed in the EIR. Many were from 2003 - 2008 (Hoffman Wind Farm). The studies are outdated and sampled through, radar or spotters in a few designated locations. Considering the site is 21.3 sq miles, or approximately the size of Lake Isabella or Ridgecrest, it is impossible to perform an accurate study in a matter of months based on multiple factors. Look at the studies and draw your own conclusions. See Volume 3, E1 and Volume 4, E1 for the studies: http://www.co.kern.ca.us/planning/pdfs/eirs/northsky_jawbone/Index.htm