MOJAVE (AP) — A Southern California wind farm has been assured by federal authorities that they won’t prosecute if the company’s whirring turbine blades kill any endangered California condors.
The wind farm operated by Alta Windpower Development in the Tehachapi Mountains has been granted a right of way by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, The Los Angeles Times reports.
That means the 2,300-acre wind farm is protected from prosecution if a condor is killed for the next 30 years. The farm is located about 100 miles north of Los Angeles, near the high desert town of Mojave.
Officials don’t believe it’s likely any condors would be killed at the wind farm because the area is devoid of the type of updrafts that carry the scavengers, which can have a 10-foot wingspan.
The wind farm, a subsidiary of Terra-Gen Power, has also downsized its project from 106 turbines to 51, in order to minimize its effect on wildlife.
The farm also plans to install a detection system to turn off its 456-foot turbines when condors are spotted near them. Radio transmitters attached to the condors would cause the turbine blades to slow from 150 mph to 15 mph whenever a condor comes within 2 miles.
Terra-Gen said it intends to share its detection data with other wind farm and will provide $100,000 a year for condor recovery efforts.
Fish and Wildlife field supervisor Steve Henry said the agreement is a standard bearer for the wind industry, adding that it “provides condors with more protections than they have right now.”
Some environmentalists worry the plan weakens federal protections for endangered species.
“The California condor is a flagship species of the Endangered Species Act,” said Kelly Fuller, wind campaign coordinator for the American Bird Conservancy, told the newspaper. “If taking a condor is allowed, what won’t be allowed?”