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Showing posts with the label wind

Sierra Club Senior Staff Dismissive of Industry Impacts

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Pet cats kill 1.4 to 3.7  billion birds in the US each year, according to a study conducted by scientists with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the Fish and Wildlife Service.  This is a significant problem that bird conservation groups have tried to address for years, although the revised numbers are very startling.   Unfortunately, this disaster is used by some industry advocates to belittle another cause of avian mortality -- wind turbines.  Sierra Club senior editor Paul Rauber broadcast a Tweet and a blog post this week giving credence to this false logic, implying that if one cause of bird mortality is significantly greater than another, the lesser cause can be ignored.

In a Tweet featuring a chart comparing annual bird mortality by wind turbines to bird mortality by cats, Mr. Rauber stated: "If bird fatalities are an argument against wind power, say goodbye first to Puss."  Mr. Rauber apparently found the infographic from another organization's tw…

Silurian Valley Still Under Threat of Energy Development

Energy company Iberdrola Renewables is still looking for a way to bulldoze a portion of the Silurian Valley, a quiet desert landscape nearly 15 miles north of the town of Baker, California.  Iberdrola as of last year had plans to build a wind energy project in the Silurian Valley, but likely conflicts with Department of Defense training and testing activities forced the company back to the drawing board.  According to BLM records, Iberdrola is now considering building a large solar project, which probably would sidestep conflicts with Department of Defense interests.

Iberdrola has converted over 10 square miles of its wind energy application to a solar right-of-way application, according to the BLM records, although the company has not given up on its wind application.  The company may not plan to use all 10 square miles of the right-of-way application for the solar project, since the current application only describes a 150 megawatt facility, which would require a much smaller footpr…

BLM Signals Approval for Searchlight Wind Project Despite Objections

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The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) last month issued the final environmental impact statement for Duke Energy's Searchlight Wind energy project, signaling initial approval for the company to industrialize nearly 29 square miles of Mojave Desert habitat near the small town of Searchlight, Nevada. Once the Department of Interior signs the record of decision -- expected early this year -- Duke Energy will transform this peaceful corner of the desert with 87 wind turbines (each standing taller than the Statue of Liberty) 35 miles of new gravel roads, and 16 miles of new transmission and collector lines, according to the BLM assessment. Construction will require over 9,000 trips by diesel trucks, and tons of cement and steel.

Potential Impacts on Wildlife Are Extensive
The area targeted by Duke Energy for the project is full of creosote bushes and Mojave yucca that can be hundreds of years old, and is surrounded by the Piute - El Dorado Critical Habitat Unit for the threatened deser…

BLM Takes Another Piecemeal Step in Ivanpah

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The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in late November issued the draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) for First Solar's Stateline Solar power project, only a month after issuing the Silver State South Solar DEIS -- both projects would be built in the Ivanpah Valley.  The BLM's draft documents lay out a plan allowing First Solar to bulldoze approximately 8 square miles of ecologically intact desert habitat, but fails to present a credible conservation strategy and overlooks other major developments on the horizon in this corner of the Mojave Desert.

The BLM only proposes token conservation measures in the documents --  establishing an area of critical environmental concern (ACEC) that arguably does not even preserve habitat connectivity for the Federally-listed desert tortoise (see my last post), and an extension of a desert wildlife management area (DWMA).  Both land use changes provide substantial carve-outs for the ill-sited solar projects, rendering the conservation…

Big Victory for Wildlands

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Patriot coal announced this week that it was stepping away from mountaintop removal in Appalachia.  Although a far distance from America's southwestern deserts, industrial-scale energy development is a familiar threat to conservationists whether you live in West Virginia or California.
The Patriot Coal announcement is the result of sustained pressure from the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Sierra Club, and West Virgnia Highlands Conservancy. Patriot is one of the three largest mountaintop coal mining companies, so its announcement is a reason to celebrate, although there is more work to be done to save the wildlands of Appalachia from other coal companies and industrial-scale wind.  The West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, one of the groups involved in pressuring Patriot Coal, is also fighting to save the region's ridgelines from industrial-scale wind, which has destroyed viewsheds, fragmented habitat, and has begun to take a severe toll on the area's bird and bat po…

Five Reasons to Let the Wind PTC Expire, And Reinvest in Solar and Efficiency

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The Production Tax Credit (PTC) -- a 2.2 cent per kilowatt-hour (kWh) credit for wind energy corporations -- is set to expire at the end of 2012, and a bevy of corporations and environmental organizations are calling on Congress to renew it immediately.  The tax break costs $1 billion dollars a year, which is much smaller than the subsidies Congress is giving to the fossil fuel industry, but has still drawn opposition from Congress and, of course, the fossil fuel industry.

We should oppose the Wind PTC, but for much different reasons than those put forward by its traditional opponents.  The bottom line is that wind energy does not meet even a modest "green" standard, and we should be putting our money to much more sustainable energy generators.  Our energy choices (mistakes?) so far have ensured that we will feel the effects of climate change for hundreds of years -- rushing to deploy a destructive and subpar "bridge" technology will only cost us more in the long r…

Disentangling Urgency from Foolishness: Exposing the Climate-Terror Paradigm

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After 11 September 2001 the country recognized an urgent threat to its security.  The debate prompted by this tragic event is still relevant even after three Presidential elections and eleven years -- how much of our civil liberty do we sacrifice to mitigate this threat?  Military tribunals, library records, torture, and transparency.  We are still questioning compromises of justice and privacy for the end state of security.  This debate will last for centuries, much like the threat.
"Those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither."  - Benjamin Franklin Are we making a foolish sacrifice to mitigate the threat of climate change? Rising seas, extreme and destructive weather patterns, lives lost, property destroyed, and degraded ecosystems.  Climate change is an urgent threat. The toxic cocktail of carbon and other poisons that we have already spewed into the atmosphere has created a climate that will punish us for decades, according to climate expert Bill McKibben, e…

Interior Celebrates Grim Statistic

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The Department of Interior reached its goal of approving 10,000 megawatts of renewable energy projects on public lands this week.  As people across the globe look for places to install solar panels in their cities or on already-disturbed lands, Washington DC has decided that it will stick to the tired tradition of feeding our energy addiction by destroying beautiful landscapes.

The Sierra Madre/Chokecherry Wind project in Wyoming --the project that pushed Interior over the 10,000 MW mark -- is very representative of the unsustainable direction our industrial renewable energy policy is taking.  It will destroy and fragment nearly 355 square miles of Wyoming wildlands, and scientists estimate that it could kill as many as 5,400 birds and 6,300 bats each year Wyoming's air and water were already sacrificed to the natural gas and coal industries, now even more pristine lands and wildlife will be lost. The customers of this energy could be hundreds of miles away, requiring new transm…

Aerial Photos Show Wind Project's Toll on the Desert

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Pattern Energy has begun clearing beautiful desert near Anza-Borrego State Park for the nearly 16 square mile Ocotillo Express Wind project.  Once completed, the facility will consist of 112 wind turbines, each one standing over 400 feet tall, and requiring wide new roads carved into the fragile desert soil.

Photographer Phillip Colla gives us a birds-eye view of the beginning phase of the destruction with a series of images available at his website.  The photos were made possible by aviation support provided by LightHawk.









As climate change, urban sprawl and other industrial uses target our wildlands, we should be challenging ourselves to adopt a more sustainable renewable energy path focused on improving our energy efficiency,  and deploying solar panels on rooftops, over parking lots, or on already-disturbed lands.



Desert Lands Policy: Wind Industry Gets Reality Check

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If you have been listening to the the past few stakeholder conferences for the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) -- an inter-agency effort to protect desert ecosystems while identifying areas suitable for renewable energy in California's deserts -- then you know that representatives from the California Wind Energy Association (CalWEA) sound disappointed as their plans to industrialize much of California's desert wildlands meet resistance.   Some of the DRECP's proposed development focus areas would only accommodate 2-17% of the nearly 2 million acres to which the wind industry initially requested access. The wind industry expressed frustration during the meetings, wondering aloud why they cannot bulldoze desert, carve hundreds of miles of new roads, and set up massive wind turbines standing over 400 feet tall across public lands.

It is a rude awakening for CalWEA and other industry officials to the realities of the desert, where stakeholders have been in li…

Speak Up: USFWS to Extend Eagle Kill Permits

The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is accepting public comments until midnight 12 July on a proposal to extend eagle "take" permits -- permission to kill or harass protected bald and golden eagles -- from 5 years to 30 years.  The move is intended to make it easier for the wind energy industry, which is building massive wind facilities that are already killing the protected birds.

For some good background, Chris Clarke wrote a great piece on the proposed rule on KCET.  The bottom line, though, is that wildlife officials will end up giving permission to wind companies to kill eagles over a 30-year period, and eliminate flexibility to save the birds if their numbers dwindle during those 30 years.  How will the USFWS save a threatened bald or golden eagle population if they cannot do anything to stop one of the birds' biggest threats -- spinning wind turbines -- because they issued too many permits some 30 years earlier?

Locking wildlife management into 30-year contra…

Sierra Club Endorses Wyoming Wind Farm That Will Slaughter Golden Eagles

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The Director of the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign and the group's Deputy Conservation Director applauded Department of Interior's plans to authorize a 355 square mile industrial wind facility in Wyoming that is expected to kill as many as 5,400 birds and 6,300 batseach year.  The Club's "Blowing in the Right Direction" article in Grist claims the energy could be shipped nearly 700 miles to Nevada in order to replace the dirty Reid Gardner coal plant, even though the Sierra Club released a study in June saying that Reid Gardner could be shut down by implementing local energy efficiency measures that actually save ratepayers money. 

Extensive Impacts
The Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Project -- a single project divided into two units that each span over 100,000 acres of mostly ecologically intact Wyoming wildlands -- would be built by an affiliate of the multi-billion dollar Anschutz Corporation.  The company operates oil fields, mines, and sports stad…

Massive Wind Project Continues to Consume Mojave

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The Alta Wind Energy Centercontinues to consume and industrialize dozens of square miles of desert habitat in the western Mojave Desert.  The total project area already encompasses over 50 square miles -- nearly 1.5 times the size of Manhattan -- and continues to expand.   Hundreds of wind turbines -- each over 420 feet tall -- require new roads and pads carved into desert soil to supply Southern California Edison (SCE) customers with "guilt free" wind energy.  Don't tell SCE customers that wind turbines require immense amounts of cement, steel and copper to deliver that energy to them, not to mention natural gas "peaker" plants running in the background.   Meanwhile, a UCLA study found that Los Angeles County could meet much of its energy demands with solar panels on rooftops or over parking lots

The Bureau of Land Management is now accepting comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the expansion of Alta wind project onto public lands.…

Sierra Club Lobbying for Wind Industry; Wind Industry Lobbying Against Wildlife

It's an odd situation when the Sierra Club provides unconditional support to an industry that describes wildlife and conservation goals as "obstacles," lobbies to weaken the environmental laws we have fought hard to institute and enforce, and enjoys comfortable access to a White House promoting an "all of the above" energy policy that is taking its toll on our climate and our public lands.  In a blog post titled "Americans Agree With President Obama: Wind Is the Way," Sierra Club Director of Clean Energy Dave Hamilton calls for the renewal of the Production Tax Credit (PTC) that has driven the wind industry's expansion onto wildlands in recent years,  yet the wind industry simultaneously ignores the Club's conservation concerns and dismisses guidance from the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to avoid impacts on protected and endangered bats and birds.

The wind industry is not as toxic as coal, but it has about as much regard for conserva…