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NextEra to replace, shut some turbines to protect birds, boost efficiency

December 6, 2010 |  1:18 pm

ALTAMONT The Altamont Pass is about to get thousands of new wind turbines that are more efficient and less of a death trap to birds and bats, according to Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown’s office.

Brown, who is also governor-elect, said Monday that he helped broker an agreement to replace turbines at the Northern California site, including many that are more than three decades old.

The hilly stretch of land near Livermore is blanketed with turbines harnessing renewable energy. But according to a 2004 study from the California Energy Commission, the rapidly swinging blades on 5,400 older units can kill more than 4,000 migratory birds each year.

NextEra Energy Resources, which operates many of the turbines, has agreed to replace 2,400 of them over the next four years. Other company-owned turbines will be shut down by 2015, according to Brown’s office.

Not only should the new units be able to produce power more efficiently, they also are to be built so that fewer eagles, falcons, hawks and owls are killed in flight. Several years of monitoring will follow construction.

The agreement, which was also signed by several Audubon Society chapters, requires NextEra to erect the new turbines in environmentally friendly locations. The company plans to pay $2.5 million in mitigation fees as well, split between the energy commission’s Public Integrated Energy Research Program and bird habitat creation programs.

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-- Tiffany Hsu

Photo: A row of wind turbines in Northern California's Altamont Pass. Credit: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

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