Birds and Blades: Are Condors and Wind Turbines Compatible?

Lawsuits pit an endangered species against renewable energy development

USFWS Pacific Southwest Region

This California condor, flying near the coast, is one of about 200 condors living in the wild.

Wind is a growing industry in the Tehachapi Mountains in Southern California. Kern County welcomes new wind projects, and Google has gotten in on the action. But some environmentalists say that developers and officials are ignoring the elephant — or, in this case, the enormous bird — in the room.

California condors are beginning to return to the Tehachapis after nearly going extinct in the 1980’s, and birds and wind turbines don’t mix. No California condors have yet had a run-in with a turbine. But they are still endangered — it’s illegal to kill them — and three environmental groups say that Kern County and the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) are not properly considering the risks. The Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit against the BLM today, regarding one wind development in particular. (They have previously sued Kern County over the same project).

An article in Forbes explains.

In the suit filed Friday in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, the environmental groups asked a judge to issue an injunction to stop construction of North Sky River. They argue that the BLM had violated the federal Endangered Species Act and other environmental laws by failing to adequately consider the impact of the wind farm.

Forbes environment editor Todd Woody has written before about the condor/wind farm controversy. His article from January lays out all the issues.

This isn’t the only case of renewable energy boosters and endangered species clashing. Climate Watch has previously looked at how solar installations affect desert tortoises and risks to the San Joaquin kit fox, also from solar.