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.
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.]