Six birds found dead recently in Southern California’s Tehachapi Mountains were majestic golden eagles. But some bird watchers say that in an area where dozens of wind turbines slice the air they were also sitting ducks.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is investigating to determine what killed the big raptors, and declined to divulge the conditions of the remains. But the likely cause of death is no mystery to wildlife biologists who say they were probably clipped by the blades of some of the 80 wind turbines at the three-year-old Pine Tree Wind Farm Project, operated by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.
As the Obama administration pushes to develop enough wind power to provide 20 percent of America’s energy by 2030, some bird advocates worry that the grim discovery of the eagles this month will be a far more common occurrence.
Windmills kill nearly half a million birds a year, according to a Fish and Wildlife estimate. The American Bird Conservancy projected that the number could more than double in 20 years if the administration realizes its goal for wind power.
Matt McInnis for The New York Times
Michael Polsky’s wind farm company was doing so well in 2008 that banks were happy to lend millions for his effort to light up America with clean electricity.
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But two years later, Mr. Polsky has a product he is hard-pressed to sell.
His company, Invenergy, had a contract to sell power to a utility in Virginia, but state regulators rejected the deal, citing the recession and the lower prices of natural gas and other fossil fuels.
“The ratepayers of Virginia must be protected from costs for renewable energy that are unreasonably high,” the regulators said. Wind power would have increased the monthly bill of a typical residential customer by 0.2 percent.
Even as many politicians, environmentalists and consumers want renewable energy and reduced dependence on fossil fuels, a growing number of projects are being canceled or delayed because governments are unwilling to add even small amounts to consumers’ electricity bills.
Deals to buy renewable power have been scuttled or slowed in states including Florida, Idaho and Kentucky as well as Virginia. By the end of the third quarter, year-to-date installations of new wind power dropped 72 percent from 2009 levels, according to the American Wind Energy Association, a trade group.
According to an analysis released on Friday, the trade group reports having its slowest quarter since 2007, adding just 395 megawatts of wind power capacity.
For the year to date, new installations were down 72 percent.
The reasons are many.
For starters, as any number of unemployed Americans can testify, the nation’s economic engines just aren’t humming like they used to, and that means less demand for electricity over all. Natural gas, the chief fossil-fuel competitor to renewable sources of electricity, is also dirt cheap these days, making wind power a tougher sell for cost-conscious utilities and state regulators.