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Wind industry advocates argue that the 30-year permit provides more stability for investors who supply the essential upfront capital.
“If the permit expires and you’re still turning wind turbines, it leaves you in noncompliance,” Daniels said. “This is the conservative way to address the risk.”
Hartman, who arrived early with a group of activists, responded: “Eagles don’t really care about certainty for developers, and neither should we.”
Daniels argued that wind energy companies take eagle protection very seriously. But she said requiring companies to report all eagle deaths publicly would invite criticism that might put the deaths out of context. Wind turbines are just one of many causes of eagle fatalities, including vehicle accidents, collisions with transmission wires and airstrikes, she noted.
Several companies have applied for the five-year permits, but only one has been issued so far, for a project in Solano County, Calif.
Wind energy facilities have killed at least 67 golden and bald eagles in the past five years, but the figure could be much higher, one new study has found. Only one company — Duke Energy, in November 2013 — has ever been prosecuted for killing federally protected birds.
Minnesota derived 14.3 percent of its electricity from wind farms in 2012, the fourth-highest in the country.
About 22,000 wind turbines were in operation in the United States in 2009, and by 2030 wind energy growth is expected to affect almost 20,000 square miles of land, according to the American Bird Conservancy.
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