California Wind Project Threatens Thousands of Birds
Conservation groups told the Kern County Board of Supervisors Oct. 21 that a large-scale wind-energy project proposed for the southern Sierra Nevada needs to go back to the drawing board and be redesigned to avoid risks to endangered California condors, golden eagles and other rare bird species. The groups filed a legal challenge in Kern County Superior Court seeking to reopen the environmental review for the 100-plus-turbine wind project approved by the county last month.
“This wind project highlights the urgent need for a smart-from-the-start renewable energy strategy that guides development away from sensitive wildlife habitat to places with the lowest chance for conflicts,” said Kim Delfino with Defenders of Wildlife. “The proposed site is in an important bird migration corridor and isn’t an ideal place for large-scale wind energy, as evidenced by the impacts nearby wind projects have already had on imperiled birds. Despite our inability to reach an agreement with NextEra Energy, we are open to working with the company to reconfigure the project to minimize harm to sensitive wildlife. With changes, we believe the project can move forward.”
The conservation groups remain hopeful that the project can be redesigned to avoid the most sensitive areas, greatly reduce the risk to California condors and golden eagles, and provide enhanced mitigation measures such as requiring the use of radar to monitor for incoming flocks of birds so that turbines can be shut down in time to avoid massive collisions. The groups have met several times with the developer prior to filing the lawsuit, but have yet to resolve these concerns.
“We need more clean energy from well-planned and carefully sited renewable energy projects that both utilize proven technology and avoid harm to sensitive wildlife and their habitat,” said Barbara Boyle with the Sierra Club. “Unfortunately, the North Sky River wind project does not meet these requirements. It unnecessarily presents a significant threat to endangered and sensitive species, including the California condor, golden eagle, southwestern willow flycatcher and sensitive bat species.”
The project consists of two components—North Sky River, by NextEra Energy, and the much smaller Jawbone project, by a private landowner. The project area is in the middle of a flyway regularly traversed by migratory birds. California condors were also documented flying near the project site this summer.
“There’s plenty of room in the state for both wind projects and the California condor to thrive,” said Ileene Anderson, a biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “But if condors and wind turbines are going to coexist, those turbines need to be sited carefully and measures have to be taken to minimize the risk that condors will be killed. Unfortunately, this project fails to do that.”
The proposed project is directly north of the Pine Tree Wind project, which is under federal investigation for killing at least six legally protected golden eagles. More than 50 sightings of golden eagles were made, and some 15 golden eagle nests found, within 10 miles of the North Sky site during an environmental review of the project. The alarming potential for impacts to rare and endangered species prompted warnings from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the California Department of Fish and Game in letters to the county supervisors.
The Fish and Wildlife Service wrote: “The first full year of fatality monitoring [for the Pine Tree Wind project] resulted in an estimated 1,595 fatalities per year, which per megawatt (11.8 fatalities/megawatt) is among the highest fatality rates being recorded in the nation…it’s reasonable to estimate that the proposed project would have avian fatality rates equal to or greater than those observed at the adjacent Pine Tree Wind Facility.”
Kern County officials approved the project despite the warnings from wildlife agencies and conservation groups, allowing the project to move forward without having to undertake sufficient conservation measures to offset or minimize impacts on wildlife.
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Wisdom the mōlī, or Laysan albatross, is the oldest wild bird known to science at the age of at least 70. She is also, as of February 1, a new mother.
<div id="dadb2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="aa2ad8cb566c9b4b6d2df2693669f6f9"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1357796504740761602" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">🚨Cute baby alert! Wisdom's chick has hatched!!! 🐣😍 Wisdom, a mōlī (Laysan albatross) and world’s oldest known, ban… https://t.co/Nco050ztBA</div> — USFWS Pacific Region (@USFWS Pacific Region)<a href="https://twitter.com/USFWSPacific/statuses/1357796504740761602">1612558888.0</a></blockquote></div>
By Hui Hu
Winter is supposed to be the best season for wind power – the winds are stronger, and since air density increases as the temperature drops, more force is pushing on the blades. But winter also comes with a problem: freezing weather.
Comparing rime ice and glaze ice shows how each changes the texture of the blade. Gao, Liu and Hu, 2021, CC BY-ND
Ice buildup changes air flow around the turbine blade, which can slow it down. The top photos show ice forming after 10 minutes at different temperatures in the Wind Research Tunnel. The lower measurements show airflow separation as ice accumulates. Icing Research Tunnel of Iowa State University, CC BY-ND
While traditional investment in the ocean technology sector has been tentative, growth in Israeli maritime innovations has been exponential in the last few years, and environmental concern has come to the forefront.
theDOCK aims to innovate the Israeli maritime sector. Pexels<p>The UN hopes that new investments in ocean science and technology will help turn the tide for the oceans. As such, this year kicked off the <a href="https://www.oceandecade.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030)</a> to galvanize massive support for the blue economy.</p><p>According to the World Bank, the blue economy is the "sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem," <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412019338255#b0245" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Science Direct</a> reported. It represents this new sector for investments and innovations that work in tandem with the oceans rather than in exploitation of them.</p><p>As recently as Aug. 2020, <a href="https://www.reutersevents.com/sustainability/esg-investors-slow-make-waves-25tn-ocean-economy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Reuters</a> noted that ESG Investors, those looking to invest in opportunities that have a positive impact in environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, have been interested in "blue finance" but slow to invest.</p><p>"It is a hugely under-invested economic opportunity that is crucial to the way we have to address living on one planet," Simon Dent, director of blue investments at Mirova Natural Capital, told Reuters.</p><p>Even with slow investment, the blue economy is still expected to expand at twice the rate of the mainstream economy by 2030, Reuters reported. It already contributes $2.5tn a year in economic output, the report noted.</p><p>Current, upward <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/-innovation-blue-economy-2646147405.html" target="_self">shifts in blue economy investments are being driven by innovation</a>, a trend the UN hopes will continue globally for the benefit of all oceans and people.</p><p>In Israel, this push has successfully translated into investment in and innovation of global ports, shipping, logistics and offshore sectors. The "Startup Nation," as Israel is often called, has seen its maritime tech ecosystem grow "significantly" in recent years and expects that growth to "accelerate dramatically," <a href="https://itrade.gov.il/belgium-english/how-israel-is-becoming-a-port-of-call-for-maritime-innovation/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">iTrade</a> reported.</p><p>Driving this wave of momentum has been rising Israeli venture capital hub <a href="https://www.thedockinnovation.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">theDOCK</a>. Founded by Israeli Navy veterans in 2017, theDOCK works with early-stage companies in the maritime space to bring their solutions to market. The hub's pioneering efforts ignited Israel's maritime technology sector, and now, with their new fund, theDOCK is motivating these high-tech solutions to also address ESG criteria.</p><p>"While ESG has always been on theDOCK's agenda, this theme has become even more of a priority," Nir Gartzman, theDOCK's managing partner, told EcoWatch. "80 percent of the startups in our portfolio (for theDOCK's Navigator II fund) will have a primary or secondary contribution to environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria."</p><p>In a company presentation, theDOCK called contribution to the ESG agenda a "hot discussion topic" for traditional players in the space and their boards, many of whom are looking to adopt new technologies with a positive impact on the planet. The focus is on reducing carbon emissions and protecting the environment, the presentation outlines. As such, theDOCK also explicitly screens candidate investments by ESG criteria as well.</p><p>Within the maritime space, environmental innovations could include measures like increased fuel and energy efficiency, better monitoring of potential pollution sources, improved waste and air emissions management and processing of marine debris/trash into reusable materials, theDOCK's presentation noted.</p>
theDOCK team includes (left to right) Michal Hendel-Sufa, Head of Alliances, Noa Schuman, CMO, Nir Gartzman, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, and Hannan Carmeli, Co-Founder & Managing Partner. Dudu Koren<p>theDOCK's own portfolio includes companies like Orca AI, which uses an intelligent collision avoidance system to reduce the probability of oil or fuel spills, AiDock, which eliminates the use of paper by automating the customs clearance process, and DockTech, which uses depth "crowdsourcing" data to map riverbeds in real-time and optimize cargo loading, thereby reducing trips and fuel usage while also avoiding groundings.</p><p>"Oceans are a big opportunity primarily because they are just that – big!" theDOCK's Chief Marketing Officer Noa Schuman summarized. "As such, the magnitude of their criticality to the global ecosystem, the magnitude of pollution risk and the steps needed to overcome those challenges – are all huge."</p><p>There is hope that this wave of interest and investment in environmentally-positive maritime technologies will accelerate the blue economy and ESG investing even further, in Israel and beyond.</p>
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