The High Cost of Renewable Energy: $1 Million Worth of Dead Birds

wind turbines

Wind farms may be an environmentally friendly source of power, but the renewable energy came at a high price for Wyoming’s Duke Energy Renewables, which was fined $1 million last month for killing birds.

Duke Energy Renewables pleaded guilty in the deaths of more than 160 birds—14 of which were golden eagles—as a result of impact with the company’s wind turbines between 2009 and 2013, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Violating the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the case against Duke marks the first-ever criminal conviction for a renewable energy company under the act, which was established in 1918 to protect more than 1,000 species of birds.

According to the Justice Department, Duke failed to make “all efforts to build the projects in a way that would reduce the risk of bird deaths, despite a warning from the Fish and Wildlife Service,” reports the Times. The company claims that it built the wind turbines  prior to federally established regulations on turbines (which went into effect in 2012). But the Justice Department said the wind turbine regulations didn’t matter because the company was still in violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act by killing the birds.

The company says it is working to install radar technology to help detect birds near the turbines so that the company can shut them down temporarily if necessary.

In a statement following the guilty plea by Duke, the federal government warned wind turbine companies to make sure research is done on the possible effects on birds, because, “at the present time, no post-construction remedies” exist to make the turbines safe for birds. Despite the setback, renewable energy is a necessary step forward in helping to reduce our impact on the environment so that it’s safer for humans. And birds.

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Image: Max Braun

Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites and, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better.