Renewable energy company Duke Energy agreed on Friday to pay $1 million in fines for causing the deaths of protected birds, the New York Times reports.
A subsidiary of the company, Duke Energy Renewables, pleaded guilty in Federal District Court in Wyoming on Friday to violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, a federal law that protects migratory birds. The company was charged with killing 14 golden eagles and dozens of other birds at two wind projects in Wyoming since 2009.
In a plea agreement, the company said it would pay the fines to several conservation groups, including the North American Wetlands Conservation Fund, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. The company must also put a plan in place to prevent bird deaths in the future, federal officials said.
The wind turbines were apparently built with full knowledge that they could cause avian death.
Birds are often killed when they collide with the wind turbines, meteorological towers, and power facilities associated with wind power projects, federal officials said. The golden eagle, which is named for its golden feathers and has a wingspan of about six feet, is commonly found in the western Plains.
Duke Energy said it had already been working with federal officials to limit bird deaths. The company is installing new radar technology to detect birds and using field biologists to look for eagles and determine when turbines need to be shut down, the company said.
Duke Energy’s national coordinator of bird-smart wind energy campaign said on Friday that bird deaths are unfortunately unavoidable with wind projects.