Posted: Aug 17, 2012 4:31 PM by David Sherman - MTN News
Updated: Aug 17, 2012 4:36 PM
NaturEner has announced changes to the Rim Rock Wind Farm northwest of Shelby after bird advocates said the project could hurt raptors and other animals in the area.
The Rim Rock Wind Farm is under construction on private lands near Kevin Rim, an area known to harbor up to 60 active nests of 10 raptor species in a given year.
The Montana Audubon Society says 10 species of raptors have been documented breeding at Kevin Rim, including ferruginous hawks, Swainson's hawks, prairie falcons, and golden eagles. The area is also home to nesting American kestrels, red-tailed hawks, peregrine falcons, great-horned owls, and burrowing owls.
At the urging of Montana Audubon, NaturEner has agreed to relocate 25 wind turbines to provide a buffer of about half a mile from historic and active raptor nests.
NaturEner and Montana Audubon's agreement calls for NaturEner to monitor the area and do mortality counts of birds and bats.
Construction began on the the Rim Rock Wind Farm in August 2011 and is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2012, with a name-plate rated capacity of 189 megawatts and a total expected annual electrical generation of approximately 662,000 MWh.
As the project was developed, Montana Audubon raised concerns about whether the turbine locations would be far enoughto not disturb raptor nests.
Although U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service guidelines do not specify a setback distance, NaturEner consulted with the USFWS and Montana Audubon in an effort to reach common ground regarding turbine placement.
In a press release, Steve Hoffman of Montana Audubon said, "Montana Audubon applauds the response of NaturEner. They listened to our recommendations, and agreed to relocate 25 wind turbines in the Rim Rock wind project. These changes have occurred late in the process, after construction had begun and at great expense to NaturEner."
Jose Sanchez Seara, the CEO of NaturEner Rim Rock Wind Energy, said, "NaturEner recognizes the valuable contributions and recommendations of Montana Audubon during the development of the Rim Rock project, particularly its advice and counsel regarding wind turbine setback requirements from historic and existing raptor nests."
(Photo from the NaturEner website.)