Birds Die as Wind Turbine Replacement Lags

A battle that pits union jobs against the lives of thousands of birds is playing out in the scenic hills of the Altamont Pass, where a wind power company operates hundreds of turbines that environmentalists say are outdated and kill protected species.

The Alameda County Board of Supervisors must decide Tuesday whether to give Altamont Winds Inc. permission to continue its 828-turbine operation despite the company’s failure to meet two deadlines to “repower” its fleet with high-efficiency turbines that bird advocates applaud.

The new turbines would be less deadly because Altamont Winds would need fewer of them to create the same amount of power, and because they could be placed outside the birds’ flight paths. Birds would still crash into the spinning propellers, but the carnage could be vastly mitigated.

 While environmentalists accuse Altamont Winds of dragging its heels, the company’s supporters counter that such massive restructuring is costly, and not easy for a small business.

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