The U.S. Interior Department released guidelines today aimed at helping wind-farm developers comply with laws that protect eagles, bats and other wildlife from spinning turbine blades.
Developers such as NextEra Energy Inc. and NRG Energy Inc. that follow the guidelines will face less scrutiny from federal regulators, said Dan Ashe, director of the departments Fish and Wildlife Service.
“Companies that follow the guidelines will not be a priority in terms of our law-enforcement efforts,” Ashe said today on a conference call with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. “This is as much of a safe harbor as a developer can get under the law.”
About 440,000 birds die annually from colliding with wind turbines, the Fish and Wildlife Service estimates.
Wind farm developers installed 6,810 megawatts of turbines in the U.S. last year, 31 percent more than in 2010, as they rushed to qualify for a federal-tax grant that expired last month, according to the Washington-based American Wind Energy Association.
The guidelines announced today will help expedite the permitting process. They include recommendations about where developers may build wind farms, how to mitigate harm to protected species. It calls for wind-farm operators to monitor and report wildlife fatalities.