Wind energy company pleads guilty to eagle deaths

Nov 23, 2013 by Dina Cappiello
In this April 18, 2013, file photo, a golden eagle is seen flying over a wind turbine on Duke energy's top of the world wind farm in Converse County Wyo. For the first time, the Obama administration is taking action against wind farms for killing eagles. In a settlement announced Friday, Nov. 22, Duke Energy will pay $1 million for killing 14 golden eagles over the past three years at two Wyoming wind farms. The company says it pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. (AP Photo/Dina Cappiello, File)

For the first time, the Obama administration is taking action against wind farms for killing eagles.

In a settlement announced Friday, Duke Energy will pay $1 million for killing 14 over the past three years at two Wyoming . The company says it pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

The case is a first to be prosecuted under that law for a wind company by the Obama administration, which has been a champion for pollution-free wind power.

Eagles act like texting drivers when they search for prey and slam into massive turbines.

A study by federal biologists this year found that wind energy facilities in 10 states had killed at least 67 golden and since 2008.

Explore further: Study: Wind farms killed 67 eagles in five years

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Lurker2358
1.8 / 5 (16) Nov 23, 2013
So let's get this straight.

1, the Government DEMANDS that energy companies make technology like Wind Turbines as an alternative to Carbon-based energy.

2, The Government fines the same energy companies for accidental deaths of Eagles which fly into the Turbines and get killed.

That has to be unconstitutional. How can you fine someone for the natural consequences of obeying the law?
Zephir_fan
Nov 23, 2013
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.2 / 5 (10) Nov 23, 2013
So let's get this straight.

1, the Government DEMANDS that energy companies make technology like Wind Turbines as an alternative to Carbon-based energy.

2, The Government fines the same energy companies for accidental deaths of Eagles which fly into the Turbines and get killed.

That has to be unconstitutional. How can you fine someone for the natural consequences of obeying the law?
They also have the right to demand that tech be developed that will prevent eagles from being killed.

"Painting Wind Turbines Black Could Prevent Thousands of Bird Deaths Every Year"

"wind farms are considering using radar units and experimental telemetry systems that they hope will avoid harming birds by identifying incoming species early enough to switch off the massive turbines and then — to minimize costs and maximize profits — turn them back on again as quickly as possible."

"During 2008-2009, surveillance teams were also involved in mitigation efforts using temporary stoppage of turbines"
Tom_Andersen
1 / 5 (12) Nov 23, 2013
Wind farm operators like to claim bird death counts are low. And they are. But bird populations are hierarchical. One Golden Eagle is worth 100,000 small birds. Adjusted on a scale like that wind turbines are a disaster. They may well eradicate whooping cranes, for instance.

You can see the slant of the article and society - blaming eagles for hitting the turbines. Also the crime was rated as a misdemeanour. The blades are moving at 250km/hr, and are designed to make as little noise as possible, plus they are a neutral colour. Eagles cannot see them coming.

If a single eagle gets taken out by an oil rig - the cry would be 'shut it all down!'.
Zephir_fan
Nov 23, 2013
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Shakescene21
1 / 5 (10) Nov 23, 2013
@ Zephir -- If you can't provide any numbers of your own, then quit criticizing those who are trying to make sense of a complicated issue. In the end we need as much data as possible to discuss the trade-offs intelligently.
ryggesogn2
1.3 / 5 (15) Nov 23, 2013
Duke pays $1M?
How much does Duke get from its govt subsidies?
kochevnik
1.4 / 5 (17) Nov 23, 2013
Duke pays $1M? How much does Duke get from its govt subsidies?
Much less than your Koch brothers

This is a superficial and political event. How many people has the US killed abroad this year? How many eagles has it killed with power lines?
Humpty
1.4 / 5 (11) Nov 23, 2013
Yeah there is this really great video of a bird flying into the path of a blade.... "WHACK" - like a 200Kmh wooden power pole used as a baseball bat.

What a pointless and stupid exercise to penalise the power company.

It's like charging people with penalties because the sun came up.
RealScience
5 / 5 (2) Nov 23, 2013
"Painting Wind Turbines Black Could Prevent Thousands of Bird Deaths Every Year"

Exactly. Jet engines are painted reduce bird strikes, and wind turbine can be, too.
Black, or maybe a pattern of bold black and yellow stripes.

djr
5 / 5 (3) Nov 23, 2013
"According to Indiana's bird-record-keeper Ken Brock, golden eagle populations spiked this year (2013)" From - http://www.courie...er-than/

It looks like the U.S. is doing a good job in terms of trying to balance the issues. Incubating and encouraging the emerging renewable energy technologies - but also keeping sight of environmental issues such as Eagle populations. Looks like a win for common sense to me.
goracle
1.7 / 5 (11) Nov 23, 2013
"Painting Wind Turbines Black Could Prevent Thousands of Bird Deaths Every Year"

Exactly. Jet engines are painted reduce bird strikes, and wind turbine can be, too.
Black, or maybe a pattern of bold black and yellow stripes.

How would that work with the NIMBY crowd that complains about the effect on the visual landscape? Increasing visibility could backfire.
yoatmon
1 / 5 (1) Nov 24, 2013
What about the "frucking" companies? How much should they fined for polluting and poisening underground water supplies and potentially endangering health and premature death of humans and other creatures?
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.1 / 5 (7) Nov 24, 2013
Here's something that might work

"Canadian lawmakers have enlisted a drone to disperse a large flock of Canada geese at a popular beach this summer"

-AI patrol drones that emit offensive noises or shoot flash bangs. Even anchored barrage balloons like they used in ww2, which could also employ active deterrence and have maneuvering capabilities.

I'm sure these have been considered.
RealScience
not rated yet Nov 24, 2013
How would that work with the NIMBY crowd that complains about the effect on the visual landscape?

Excellent question!
A black/yellow pattern on a scale of a few feet would be highly visible close up but less visible from a distance, but even that would significantly increase the visibility to humans over the light color used today.

However most birds' eyes have different spectral sensitivity from humans. Birds can see well in what we call ultraviolet, so a bold pattern with reflecting at ~350 nm to ~400 nm would be highly visible to birds but invisible to humans.

Also birds' "green" receptor peaks at a significantly different wavelength, so two combinations of wavelengths in the blue-green range could be created that would both look pale aqua to humans but one would look bright aqua and the other pale aqua to birds.

The bold UV and the AQUA brightness patterns could be combined into something hideously garish for birds but uniform aqua for humans.

It might actually work.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.7 / 5 (6) Nov 24, 2013
LED skins on blades or balloons could heighten the effect. These are already used for advertising on dirigibles and could produce dazzling patterns or active images of natural enemies.
RealScience
5 / 5 (1) Nov 24, 2013
@Ghost - great idea - LEDs come in UV wavelengths, and there is much less ambient lights in those wavelength so less energy would be needed. UV LEDs would also be invisible to humans, so a pattern of flashing UV LEDs could be obvious to birds and yet invisible to humans.

LEDs would have to not interfere with the aerodynamics, but they could be built into one edge and powered by thin-film solar cells (at UV wavelengths and operating in short pulses, very little energy would be needed in spite of the high per-photon energy).
goracle
1 / 5 (9) Nov 24, 2013
@RealScience, thanks for the informative reply. It's nice to have some productive exchanges on a green tech/environment subject for a change. I was wondering about the visual spectrum of relevant bird species compared to humans.
RealScience
5 / 5 (1) Nov 24, 2013
@goracle - you asked a good question, and such discussions are what phys.org comments are supposed to be for.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (9) Nov 24, 2013
What is the plan to stop the killing of bats?
RealScience
5 / 5 (1) Nov 24, 2013
@ryggesogn2 - an ultrasonic whistle would do just fine.

They have been used on cars in deer country, although one for bats should be higher in pitch. 85 to 90 kHz would be in the range that bats hear well, but is above the hearing range of humans and pets like cats and dogs, and above the range of wildlife like deer, foxes, racoons and even most rodents and insects.

The insects that can hear in that range are the prey of bats, so scaring them away would be a good thing so that bats wouldn't hunt them near the 'blades of death'.

A few mice can also hear up to 90 kHz, but it is right near the top of their range so it probably wouldn't be too annoying even to the mice.
goracle
1 / 5 (9) Nov 24, 2013
@ryggesogn2 - an ultrasonic whistle would do just fine.

They have been used on cars in deer country, although one for bats should be higher in pitch. 85 to 90 kHz would be in the range that bats hear well, but is above the hearing range of humans and pets like cats and dogs, and above the range of wildlife like deer, foxes, racoons and even most rodents and insects.

The insects that can hear in that range are the prey of bats, so scaring them away would be a good thing so that bats wouldn't hunt them near the 'blades of death'.

A few mice can also hear up to 90 kHz, but it is right near the top of their range so it probably wouldn't be too annoying even to the mice.

Inaudible to humans the whistles may be, but somebody will find a way to make themselves sick from worrying about imaginary effects.
RealScience
4 / 5 (1) Nov 24, 2013
Inaudible to humans the whistles may be, but somebody will find a way to make themselves sick from worrying about imaginary effects.


Too true!

But those people are already think they are sick from the wind turbines, so saving the birds and bats doesn't make them worse off...
goracle
1 / 5 (9) Nov 25, 2013
@RealScience, thanks for the informative reply. It's nice to have some productive exchanges on a green tech/environment subject for a change. I was wondering about the visual spectrum of relevant bird species compared to humans.

Apparently a bit of civilised discussion angers the sockpuppet handlers, judging by the barrage of 1s from the usual suspects.
David_Ward
not rated yet Nov 25, 2013
While the American Wind Energy Association cannot speak to the specifics of this case as they are not public, based on our understanding of the settlement agreement this is a clear example of a wind company taking responsibility for unforeseen impacts to wildlife and providing conservation measures to not only offset those impacts, but also with respect to other sources of impact existing in the landscape today. This agreement will help advance the knowledge of wind wildlife interactions to further reduce the industry's relatively small impacts.

It is worth keeping in mind that the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act has broad implications. Essentially anyone who kills even one bird, either knowingly or unknowingly could face prosecution for violating the act. The wind energy industry continues to do more than any other industry of which we are aware to study potential impacts before construction, make changes to plans to avoid and minimize those impacts, study operational impacts and mit
ForFreeMinds
1 / 5 (9) Nov 25, 2013
So let's get this straight.

1, the Government DEMANDS that energy companies make technology like Wind Turbines as an alternative to Carbon-based energy.

2, The Government fines the same energy companies for accidental deaths of Eagles which fly into the Turbines and get killed.


No, the federal government doesn't force anyone to build farms (unlike buying medical insurance), it subsidizes it, making it an endeavor whereby one can make a profit, at the expense of taxpayers. It also approves the project, retaining the right to prohibit you do with your property as you believe best.

The government fining them is not unusual. When you get in bed with the Mafia, you will find they occasionally demand something from you, which you cannot refuse. Similarly here.

Now if government wasn't like the Mafia, and allowed people freedom to do with their property as they want, and where it didn't control commerce via legislation/regulation, then no one would build wind farms.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (8) Nov 25, 2013
Bat deaths are not caused by blade impacts. They are cause by air pressure changes.
RealScience
not rated yet Nov 25, 2013
@R2 - David used 'impact' in the sense of 'having an impact on the species', rather than the sense of 'the impact from the blade hitting killed the bat'.

The sudden pressure changes that affect bats only occur near the area swept by the blades, so any bats kept away from that area would be saved from harmful pressure drops as well.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (2) Nov 25, 2013
Bat deaths are not caused by blade impacts. They are cause by air pressure changes.
Bat deaths from turbines arent a problem and you know it because you have been shown the data before. 'But why mommy' says ryggy over and over again.
Modernmystic
1 / 5 (8) Nov 25, 2013
Why am I unconcerned about this in the least?

IF we can avoid the issue by application of paint (and it sounds like we certainly can)...great.

If not, then I'd rather have the extra energy.