Wind Energy Companies Seek More Bird-Friendly Turbines

While the hazards there aren’t unique, recent studies suggest up to twice as many birds are killed every year at the Altamont Wind Resource Area than previously indicated by official estimates. Independent researcher Shawn Smallwood, head of ongoing mortality surveys in the Sand Hill area and other parts of the Altamont, estimates 10,000 birds are killed each year. It’s particularly dangerous for golden eagles; about 60 die annually, he said, making it among the most lethal zones for the species in the country, based on available records.

“The old (turbine) technology is terrible,” Smallwood said. “It kills a lot of birds and bats. It’s like a person running across a very busy street. You make it some of the time, but once in a while, you don’t.”

Nationwide, investors put $25 billion into wind energy in 2012, with U.S. wind farms reaching 60 gigawatts of capacity, according to the American Wind Energy Association. California is second only to Texas in total wind capacity, with $11 billion in capital investment.

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