Dedicated to the protection of birds, other animals, and their habitats through education and activism
Southeast Volusia Audubon Society, P.O. Box 46, New Smyrna Beach, FL 32170; president@SEVolusiaAudubon.org
The New York Times reported on Nov 23 that Duke Energy agreed to pay $1 million in fines as part of the Justice Department’s first criminal case against a wind power company for the deaths of protected birds. The company was charged with killing 14 golden eagles and dozens of other birds at two wind projects in Wyoming since 2009. The company acknowledged that they constructed the wind farms in a manner that the knew beforehand could kill birds. In the plea deal they also agreed to set up monitoring by new radar technology as well as field biologists looking for raptors and directing the shutdown of wind turbines when birds are about to be hazarded. They will also have to file for an eagle take permit.
The case begs the question of why did the DOJ pick this Duke Energy subsidiary? Wind turbine farms have been around for a long time. What was the difference with this company? Is it because they did not have an eagle take permit and a plan to mitigate the problem? How many other companies are in the same situation.
There are no enforceable rules regarding the siting of wind farms. In fact, after the hundreds of thousands of birds were killed in the 2009-2010 timeframe, conservation organizations such as National Audubon and American Bird Conservancy worked for three years with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and energy companies to develop guidelines for siting wind farms. There were promulgated in March 2012. AND THEY ARE VOLUNTARY!
The company was not fined for breaking siting rules, they were charged with violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
Voluntary siting guidelines and take permits along with mitigation plans will not stop the killing of birds although they may decrease the numbers of deaths. Wind farms have to be sited where the wind is favorable. And birds love those conditions, especially during migrations.
To make matters worse, the Interior Department is knuckling under to the powerful wind lobby to grant 30-year incidental take permits. Where is the pressure on the wind farm companies to take mitigating actions to prevent deaths of Bald and Golden Eagles and other birds when they have a 30 year grace period? Go here to tell the Interior Secretary that is a terrible idea and please change it.
Wind farms are not "green" energy producers if they kill millions of birds and displace others from their breeding grounds. Solar is the best "green" energy source, but not the solar farms that take huge expanses of land. They have similar problems to the wind farms except that they impact mammals and reptiles. Where better to site a solar farm than the desert and where better to find endangered mammals and reptiles?
The best place for solar farms is the billions of square feet of flat roofs in the country. If the the big box stores like Wal-mart and Target, the auto manufacturers and others filled their rooftops with solar panels, we could substantially cut greenhouse emissions, push back the need for new power plants and provide power without the environmental consequences of wind and solar farms.
Some companies are currently doing this. Even Walmart is finding cost savings in solar. They have more solar capacity installed on their stores than 38 states according to a recent Bloomberg News article. They have installed 89 mega-watts of capacity, but it is spread over 7 countries. They still have a long way to go. Even Apple, Ikea and Thule have gotten in on the act. If they are all finding it profitable why aren't all the big stores and factories?
The companies have tax advantages they could use to amortize their capital outlays and there still are some subsidies available. They could be producing free electricity in few short years.
It would also obviate the need for smart grids because the power would be produced at the point of consumption. Can you imagine the number of good-paying jobd that would be created in manufacture and installation of solar panels on all these rooftops?
Obviously, not all roofs are candidates for solar installations. Older ones that would need lots of retrofitting come to mind. But even if manufacturers and big box stores put solar panels on new or newer buildings and rooftops, there would be an unbelievable amount of electricity produced.
The greater environmental and conservation community needs to push this effort. The owners of these roofs need to be convinced that solar installations are cost effective and have a reasonable return on investment.
We need to get both conservation organizations and corporations on the bandwagon. Let us start a letter/email campaign. If any of the eSkimmer News readership belongs to an environmental/conservation organization, write them a letter or email asking them to start a campaign to get flat roofs covered in solar panels, especially on newer roofs and in states where solar is reasonable. You are welcome to edit this email for that purpose.
Maybe we can get a real green energy program going in this country.