ORNITHOLOGY MEETS ECOLOGY
Condor concerns may not stop plans for Salinas Valley turbines.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Maybe condors and wind turbines can coexist in the Salinas Valley. A new study by the Ventana Wildlife Society and Stanford University’s Solar and Wind Energy Project says that a narrow strip on the valley floor between Gonzales and King City offers low risk to condors and enough gusts to harness renewable energy.
The threat of creating a condor Cuisinart has scuttled several proposed wind turbines, since the 52 endangered condors in central California often fly between Big Sur and Pinnacles.
“My hope is that [the study] leads to the responsible development of wind energy in Monterey County, so that our endangered California condor is not impacted at all but at the same time our community can enjoy a renewable resource that is right here in our backyard,” says VWF executive director Kelly Sorenson.
The study overlays the flying altitudes of condors from July 2003 to September 2008 with the county’s wind resource. Though about a quarter of the condor population was tagged with GPS, there was only one detection of a condor flying below 200 meters in the targeted turbine zone. The report recommends turbine construction be prohibited in valley foothills and south of King City.
The city of Soledad’s proposed seven-turbine wind farm, a test case for wind power in the county, falls within the condor-free zone. But it remains to be seen whether wildlife regulators such as the Department of Fish and Game will bless the report’s findings and give up opposition to Soledad’s turbine.
“[The report] is very encouraging, and now we just need to take it one step further and have the regulatory agencies figure something out,” says John Roitz of Salinas Valley Windpower.