Despite Alameda County zoning approval to repermit 3,100 wind turbines, a lawsuit bolstered by a new Department of Energy study, as well as permit appeals, could delay or stop the turbines from spinning in the Altamont Pass. The East Alameda Board of Zoning Adjustments repermitted 1,700 of the turbines late last month and earlier voted to allow 1,400 turbines to keep turning. The first batch of approvals of the expiring 20-year permits was appealed to the county board of supervisors. Steven Buckley, Alameda County assistant planning director, expects the second batch to also be challenged. Meanwhile, a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) filed January 12 aims to stop both the repermitting and new wind project development because of the turbines? toll on birds? longevity. ?Each year, wind turbines at [Altamont Pass] kill up to 60 or more golden eagles and hundreds of other hawks, owls, and other protected raptors,? states the CBD. The center brought the suit against FPL Group and its partner, the Danish wind power company NEG Micon A\/S. ?These bird kills have continued for 20 years in flagrant violation of the Bald Eagle and Golden Eagle Protection Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and several California Fish and Game Code provisions,? according to the center. The lawsuit, filed in federal district court in San Francisco, alleges that these violations and bird kills are unlawful and constitute unfair business practices under the California Business and Professions Code. FPL and NEG Micon own about 2,000 turbines in Altamont Pass, according to FPL spokesperson Steve Stengel. A ?vast majority? of those turbines were subject to the recent repermitting votes, he added. Stengel would not comment on pending litigation. To add more fuel to the renewables-versus-birds debate, DOE released a study detailing the avian deaths in the area. According to that study, wind turbines in the Altamont Pass act something like a bug zapper on birds?they are enticed to the windmills and are sometimes caught in the blades or otherwise dispatched. ?Some species . . . were drawn into the lands near turbines for some reasons,? according to the DOE study on bird deaths at Altamont from 1998 to 2000 (NREL\/SR-500-33829). For instance, golden eagles seem to be attracted to the rock pile produced during preparation of the wind tower ?laydown.? The reason is that rabbits?a favorite on eagles? lunch menu?like the rock piles. Red-tailed hawks seem attracted to road cuts, according to DOE. ?The issue at Altamont is not wind power versus birds, but rather whether the wind power industry is willing to take simple steps to reduce bird kills,? stated the CBD. Stengel said FPL is working with federal and state agencies to address the bird kill problem. The company has installed some hardware to ward off birds and has decommissioned six ?suspected problem? turbines. ?Folks are thinking, ?Why don?t we repower more??? said Buckley. The county approved repowering 45 turbines for 36 MW last year. Under repowering?which is not relicensing?turbines are rebuilt or replaced to help mitigate bird deaths. For instance, rotors can be slowed, and tubular towers with no surfaces on which birds can perch can replace current turbines. ?Repowering is something we look at on a regular basis, but we haven?t made a decision,? said FPL?s Stengel. Buckley said that the lawsuit should not influence the county process because the county is not named in the lawsuit. However, media reports link the two, and it will be politically difficult to ignore both the lawsuit and the DOE study when the county reviews the appeals.