Duke Energy Renewables has become the first wind energy company prosecuted under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and will pay a $1 million fine for the deaths of eagles and other birds at two Wyoming wind farms, the Associated Press reports.
The case represents the first time the government has used environmental laws to protect birds from the hazards of wind energy installations, and it follows an earlier report by the AP that dozens of eagles had died in collisions with wind turbines.
“In this plea agreement, Duke Energy Renewables acknowledges that it constructed these wind projects in a manner it knew beforehand would likely result in avian deaths,” Robert G. Dreher, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, said in a statement Friday, according to the AP.
Duke Energy Renewables President Greg Wolf said the company deeply regretted the deaths. “Our goal is to provide the benefits of wind energy in the most environmentally responsible way possible,” he said.
One of the two wind farms is located in Campbell Hill, Wyoming, northwest of Casper, and the other is the Top of the World farm outside Casper.
The AP said that turbine blades look as if they’re moving slowly, but blade tips can move at speeds as high as 170 mph. Eagles scanning for food on the ground don’t look up as they fly, the report said, and don’t notice the spinning blades until it’s too late.
Utilities have tried a variety of tactics to reduce fatal collisions. As part of the agreement, Duke will continue to use biologists to identify eagles and shut down turbines when they get too close, the AP said. The company also has agreed to install new radars.