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Altamont Pass Wind Farm|to Get Bird-Safety Update

(CN) - Energy companies generating wind power at Altamont Pass in California agreed to replace old turbines with ones that are safer for birds to satisfy environmentalists' claims.

The deal, brokered with help from the California attorney general, settles a lawsuit between five Bay Area chapters of the National Audubon Society and NextEra Energy Resources.

NextEra owns the five wind-power companies that operate more than 5,400 turbines, built in the late 1970s and early 1980s, at Altamont Pass. The pass lies in eastern Contra Costa and Alameda counties, along an important flight path for migrating birds, raptors in particular.

The California Energy Commission found that each year, the turbines kill 1,700 to 4,200 birds, including federally protected species such as golden eagles. Moving as fast as 179 miles per hour at their tips, turbine blades strike the birds as they are in flight.

Under the agreement, older wind-generating turbines must be replaced by newer models by the end of 2015. The Golden Gate Audubon Society claims that the newer and better-placed turbines will kill up to 80 percent fewer birds.

The five Audubon groups are the Golden Gate, Santa Clara Valley, Mt. Diablo, Ohlone and Marin chapters. They were joined by Californians for Renewable Energy in the settlement agreement.

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