Harming of protected species can result in curtailment of wind power plant operations, monetary fines and negative publicity.
The operation of wind power plants can adversely affect endangered, threatened or otherwise protected animal species. Wind power plants, in particular, involve a risk that protected species will be harmed, as the turbine blades travel at a high rate of speed and may strike flying animals (such as birds or bats) that happen to travel into the path of spinning blades.
Our wind power plants are known to strike and kill flying animals, and occasionally strike and kill endangered or protected species, including protected golden or bald eagles. As a result, we expect to observe all industry guidelines and governmentally recommended best practices to avoid harm to protected species, such as avoiding structures with perches, avoiding guy wires that may kill birds or bats in flight, or avoiding lighting that may attract protected species at night. In addition, we will attempt to reduce the attractiveness of a site to predatory birds by site maintenance (e.g., mowing, removal of animal and bird carcasses, etc.).
Where possible, we will obtain permits for incidental taking of protected species. We hold such permits for some of our wind power plants, particularly in Hawaii, where several species are endangered and protected by law. We are currently in discussions with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (“USF&WS”) about obtaining incidental take permits for bald and golden eagles at locations with low to moderate risk of such events. We are also discussing with USF&WS amending the incidental take permits for certain wind power plants in Hawaii, where observed endangered species mortality has exceeded prior estimates and may exceed permit limits on such takings.
Excessive taking of protected species could result in requirements to implement mitigation strategies, including curtailment of operations, and/or substantial monetary fines and negative publicity. Our wind power plants in Hawaii, several of which hold incidental take permits to authorize the incidental taking of small numbers of protected species, are subject to curtailment (i.e., reduction in operations) if excessive taking of protected species is detected through monitoring. At some of the facilities in Hawaii, curtailment has been implemented, but not at levels that materially reduce electricity generation or revenues. Such curtailments (to protect bats) have reduced nighttime operation and limited operation to times when wind speeds are high enough to prevent bats from flying into a wind power plant’s blades. Based on continuing concerns about species other than bats, however, additional curtailments are possible at those locations. We cannot guarantee that such curtailments, any monetary fines that are levied or negative publicity that we receive as a result of incidental taking of protected species will not have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.
Risks that are beyond our control, including but not limited to acts of terrorism or related acts of war, natural disasters, hostile cyber intrusions, theft or other catastrophic events, could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.
Our renewable energy facilities, or those that we otherwise acquire in the future, may be targets of terrorist activities that could cause environmental repercussions and/or result in full or partial disruption of the facilities’ ability to generate electricity. Hostile cyber intrusions, including those targeting information systems as well as electronic control systems used at the facilities and for the related distribution systems, could severely disrupt business operations and result in loss of service to customers, as well as create significant expense to repair security breaches or system damage.
Furthermore, certain of our renewable energy facilities are located in active earthquake zones. The occurrence of a natural disaster, such as an earthquake, hurricane, lightning, flood or localized extended outages of critical utilities or transportation systems, or any critical resource shortages, affecting us could cause a significant interruption in our business, damage or destroy our facilities or those of our suppliers or the manufacturing equipment or inventory of our suppliers.
Additionally, certain of our renewable energy facilities and equipment are at risk for theft and damage. For example, we are at risk for copper wire theft, especially at our solar generation facilities, due to an increased demand for copper in the United States and internationally. Theft of copper wire or solar panels can cause significant disruption to our operations for a period of months and can lead to operating losses at those locations. Damage to wind turbine equipment may also occur, either through natural events such as lightning strikes that damage blades or in-ground electrical systems used to collect electricity from turbines, or through vandalism, such as gunshots into towers or other generating equipment. Such damage can cause disruption of operations for unspecified periods which may lead to operating losses at those locations.
Any such terrorist acts, environmental repercussions or disruptions, natural disasters or theft incidents could result in a significant decrease in revenues or significant reconstruction, remediation or replacement costs, beyond what could be recovered through insurance policies, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.