Renewable energy will be safer for LA County birds and bats
Due to comments from EHL, Los Angeles County’s Renewable Energy Ordinance added additional safeguards to protect birds and bats from collisions.
The Ordinance, adopted in December 2016, covers renewable wind and solar energy facilities, both utility-scale and small scale. Importantly, the Ordinance streamlines approval for “distributed” solar energy, such as roof top panels. These are by far the most environmentally responsible source for renewable energy.
All wind turbines will kill birds and bats, though these often-gruesome impacts can be limited by proper site selection. But in a surprise development, the Board of Supervisors prohibited all utility-scale turbines, or “wind farms,” which pose the greatest problems for wildlife. The ban was initiated due to local opposition to these facilities in the Antelope Valley rather than on the basis of energy policy or biological impacts. However, County staff later stated to the press that the County could achieve all its renewable goals through solar.
In its review and public participation, EHL focused on the “small” wind turbines which might serve a residence or farm or business. Actually up to 85 feet in height, they are hardly small, and pose significant threats to birds and bats. To reduce impacts, the Ordinance requires small turbines to be set back from ridgelines (which birds seek for updrafts), wetlands and riparian habitat, biological reserves, golden eagle nests, and bat roosts. In addition, guy wires, which as perch sties attract birds, are prohibited. A finding will have to be made that the placement of the turbine (or solar array) has minimized bird and bat impacts. Most of these improvements were suggested by EHL, building upon its work on a similar ordinance in San Diego County.
In conclusion, we commend the County for the additional safeguards and continue to support decentralized solar panels as the first choice.