Audubon’s Strauss Energy Successes

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The Strauss Wind Energy Project is a wind farm slated to be built on 3,000 acres of range land about four miles south of Lompoc. The project will comprise 29 wind turbine generators (WTGs) about 500 feet tall, near the end of San Miguelito Road.
The Strauss site has an exceptional bird diversity, particularly raptors. Strauss presents a significant risk to raptors — most fly within the rotor-swept zone of the wind turbines.

While Santa Barbara Audubon Society strongly supports renewable energy production, wind energy that is not properly planned will have a devastating effect on birds. After carefully reviewing the project design and environmental impact documents, we determined that Strauss was not designed with the proper balance between energy production and environmental protection. As a result, we could not support the project.

In the end, the county decision makers were highly motivated to approve the project because of their need to achieve their renewable energy goals. The county approved the Strauss project despite impacts to birds, oak trees, the endangered Gaviota tarplant, and visual resources. These impacts are a real shame, because the project could have been designed with a lot less environmental impact.

However, Audubon succeeded in getting many protections for birds on the project. These included:

•  Active control technology that will detect large birds and automatically curtail wind turbine operation.
•  The wind farm operator must obtain a golden eagle “take” permit.
An Adaptive Management Plan will be implemented.
•  If collision mortalities exceed certain thresholds, a public hearing will be required.
•  Transmission line wires spaced to accommodate the California condor.
•  Markers on transmission lines.
•  Meteorological towers without guy wires.
•  Carrion to be removed from within 500 feet of each turbine.
•  San Miguelito Road will be left open to the public for recreation, including birding.

As a consequence of Audubon’s diligent efforts on Strauss, developers and the county now know that they must more seriously consider bird conservation in future development projects. S.B. Audubon thanks all volunteers and members for their tremendous support!

Steve Ferry is a project leader for Santa Barbara Audubon Society.

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