American Wind Energy Ass.’ John Anderson is spouting off in the DelmarvaNow Opinion section, and good thing it’s in the Opinion section because it’s a little skewed on facts and displays a disturbing outlook.

Anderson’s bio says:

I am the industry lead on national wildlife and non-wildlife siting issues for both land-based and offshore wind development. In this role, I get to work on critical issues related to the deployment and operations of U.S. wind energy facilities, which – once addressed – will aid in the advancement of a form of energy generation that is key to combating climate change.

Two things jump out at me:

  • John Anderson is the industry lead, but I’m not seeing anything about development of wind siting that’s respectful of humans or wildlife, and in his opinion piece, it discounts documented issues of eagle kills and projected eagle kills and it minimizes the potential for eagle and other bird kills via wind turbines.
  • John Anderson advances the fiction that “deployment and operations of U.S. wind energy facilities, which – once addressed – will aid in the advancement of a form of energy generation that is key to combating climate change.”  Oh, pleeeeeeeaze…  Building wind turbines does not reduce carbon emissions — shutting down coal plants does.  Not one Renewable Energy Standard/Mandate links building and using renewable energy generation with shut down of any generation that produces CO2.  PERIOD.  There is no link.  This is a problem that needs to be corrected, but as it stands, building all the wind in the world, adding to the existing surplus of generation, will not decrease carbon emissions.  The economic depression actually did something for reducing CO2 emissions, but we’ve got a surplus.  AWEA is a big fan of transmission, which rather than force shutdown of the CO2 emitters, adds to transmission capacity for regional marketing, and allows those coal plants to continue operating.  If they were shut down, there’d be plenty of capacity for all the wind they could want on those wires, actually taking the place of the coal now on the wires.  The massive transmission build-out is all about keeping “Coal on the Wires.”  ICF – Midwest ISO Benefits Analysis explains it quite well, and succinctly, when it states that the benefits of the transmission build-out is best achieved where coal displaces natural gas.  Great… just great policy…

I’m concerned about this both as an attorney who has worked for clients intervening in wind project dockets with significant eagle kill issues, modeling showing deaths of both Bald Eagles and Golden Eagles would occur (see record for the Goodhue Wind project here in Goodhue County, PUC Dockets 08-1233; 09-1176; 09-1349 and 09-1350), and as a former board member of the National Eagle Center, referenced with a quote from its site (though he’s misnaming it as “National Bald Eagle Center.”  The name is a BIG deal to the National Eagle Center.)  I’m also concerned about this because its appearing in Delmarvanow, as I have ties to Delaware and my partner Alan Muller is Executive Director of Green Delaware, instrumental in the Delaware Public Service Commission’s RFP selection of a wind/gas combo in a level playing field comparison between wind, natural gas, and IGCC (coal gasification).

It seems the lessons of the Goodhue Wind Project and its Avian and Bat Protection Plan, typical of wind projects and eagle take permits in Minnesota, need review:


U.S. Fish and Wildlife predicted the following eagle mortality would accompany the small 78MW Goodhue Wind Project a/k/a New Era Wind Farm, and yes, folks, it would require an eagle take permit:

USFWS Comment on Goodhue Avian & Bat Protection Plan January 16, 2013

Let’s be clear — an eagle take permit is a federal permit allowing the permit holder to kill eagles.

The National Eagle Center’s website states under “Do wind turbines need an eagle take permit” an incorrect answer:

An eagle take permit is not required for a wind turbine project to proceed, however, if harm to eagles results, the company would then be subject to prosecution. The eagle take permit process itself requires that mitigation procedures to limit potential harm to eagles be put in place, as well as mandatory data collection and regulatory oversight of the project.

This needs correction.  Many wind projects do require take permits.  Eagle take permits are on a project by project basis and they absolutely can and are required for wind projects, the project here in Goodhue a local example.  FYI, it’s not just wind projects, it’s transmission that kill eagles too, and the AWEA folks are fond of promoting transmission “for wind” (NOT).  The CapX 2020 transmission project required eagle take permits for its Belle Plaine Minnesota River crossing and for the Mississippi River crossing near Alma, Wisconsin.

Today at Delmarvanow.com:

Like people, eagles benefit from clean environment

John Anderson

To Americans, the bald eagle symbolizes our freedom, spirit and democracy. With National Bald Eagle Day happening every year at the end of June, we are reminded of the need to do all that we can to care for and protect our national bird across the country.

Many man-made threats to eagles exist in the landscape today, including power lines, mercury and lead poisoning, and illegal shootings — with thousands killed annually by these sources. Further, according to most in the scientific community, the single greatest threat to them, and all wildlife, is climate change.

That’s why National Resources Defense Council Executive Director Peter Lehner has said, “We need to move as quickly as possible to the clean energy future, and scaling up wind power will be a big part of the solution,” and why ConservAmerica President Rob Sisson said, “Developing energy from America’s abundant renewable natural resources must be our priority, not only for the tremendous economic benefits it yields, but because it’s one of the best tools available to help conserve wildlife, including eagles.”

All sources of energy generation, and human activity for that matter, have an impact on the natural environment. However, Americans are confronted with needing to make choices about how to generate the electricity necessary to power our modern society and doing so in the least impactful way.

According to the National Bald Eagle Center, stewards of National Bald Eagle Day, the overall impact of wind turbine collision on eagle populations is minimal compared to other sources of mortality. While unfortunate, eagle losses at modern wind farms are a rare and random event, with only a few bald eagles having ever been observed to have died in collisions with a wind turbine.

Studies of the life cycle impacts of the six major energy generation sources have shown wind energy has the lowest environmental impact of any form of electricity generation, as it emits no air or water pollution, uses no water in the generation of electricity and creates no hazardous or radioactive waste requiring permanent storage. In fact, pollution-free, renewable wind energy was built on a legacy of care and has expended significant resources proactively minimizing its impact on wildlife while representing an economical solution to mitigating the effects of climate change.

American wind power is one of the cheapest and most reliable ways we can rapidly reduce carbon pollution and solve the challenges of climate change. The American wind fleet avoids 127 million tons of carbon emissions a year, the equivalent of reducing power sector emissions by 5 percent or taking 20 million cars off the road. Wind energy is the single largest zero-emission, newly installed energy source for the past three decades. As it continues scaling up from more than 5 percent today to 20 percent of the U.S. power grid and beyond, the pollution savings will rapidly grow.

The wind energy industry does more to address its impacts on eagles than any of the other, far greater sources of eagle mortality known to wildlife experts. Wind has taken the most proactive and leading role of any utility-scale energy source to minimize wildlife impacts in general, and specifically for eagles, through constantly improving siting and avoidance and minimization techniques, and identifying options to offset the industry’s comparatively minimal impacts.

In recognizing that some human impact on eagles is unavoidable, during the last two years the U.S. Department of the Interior worked with major conservation groups and other stakeholders, including the wind energy industry, to make available limited authorization, for up to 30 years, for the taking of eagles that is incidental to and not the purpose of otherwise lawful activities. The permit is available to all sources of human-caused eagle mortality including oil and gas development, electric utilities and transportation, and was designed to conserve eagle populations by providing for a net conservation benefit for an eagle lost.

Protecting and caring for our national bird is important to the wind industry, which is why we proactively work with conservationists and regulators to find ways to minimize and fully offset our impacts.

As we take a moment each year to celebrate Bald Eagle Day, remember, the American wind energy industry is doing its part to keep bald eagles safe while providing a clean, affordable means of generating electricity, which is one of the key tools to addressing the impacts of climate change.

John Anderson is director of siting policy at the American Wind Energy Association.

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