NaturEner USA LLC, a San Francisco-based wind energy development company, and Montana Audubon are making major changes to the Rim Rock Wind Farm, located near Kevin, Mont., in order to avoid impacts on birds and their habitat.
The 189 MW Rim Rock Wind Farm is currently under construction on private lands near Kevin Rim, an area known to harbor up to 60 active nests of 10 raptors species in a given year. At the urging of Montana Audubon, NaturEner voluntarily agreed to relocate each of 25 wind turbines to provide a buffer of approximately half a mile from historic and active raptor nests, the company explains.
These changes were made after the project design had been finalized, the financing had been completed and the construction had begun.
As the project was being developed, Montana Audubon voiced concerns over whether the turbine locations as designed would be sufficiently distant from historic raptor nests to limit the potential for displacement and/or disturbance of one of the most active raptor nesting areas in Montana.
Although the land-based wind energy guidelines developed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) did not specify a setback distance, NaturEner was aware of the concerns and consulted with both the FWS and Montana Audubon in an effort to find common ground regarding the planned turbine placement, NaturEner explains. After numerous meetings, the final design plan was changed.
In addition, NaturEner and Montana Audubon have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the following fundamental objectives: regional economic development, an environmentally sustainable clean energy project, and the preservation of wildlife and its habitat.
The MOU also provides the structure for cooperation and understanding between Rim Rock and Montana Audubon for additional wildlife studies and an opportunity to coordinate regional issues of mutual interest relating to wind energy development.
Preliminary construction work on the wind farm began in August 2011 and is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year. The project will be interconnected with the Montana-Alberta Tie Line.