Xcel Energy: First Voluntary Avian Protection Program
Headquartered in Minneapolis, Xcel Energy is a major U.S. electric and natural gas company serving customers in eight states. Xcel Energy operates in many beautiful and pristine parts of the country and it works to preserve distinctive habitat in each of those regions.
Xcel Energy was the first utility in the nation to voluntarily sign a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to develop protection plans for their service areas. Under this agreement, the company has been monitoring and reporting avian deaths and injuries to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service since 2002, and has developed comprehensive raptor protection standards for overhead electric distribution facilities.
Xcel Energy is in the second year of implementing the avian protection plan for their Colorado region. In 2006, they retrofitted 12 miles of transmission line in Colorado to protect birds along the Colorado River in the western portion of the state. They will finalize the draft avian protection plan for their operating region in Texas and New Mexico by the end of 2007.
A draft plan for its upper Midwest region will be finished by mid-2007, with plans to finalize it by the end of the first quarter 2008. Xcel Energy will also work closely with various organizations in the region, such as Twin Cities Osprey Project, Minnesota Trumpeter Swan Society, and Bird Conservation Minnesota to protect bird species and provide habitat.
In early 2007, Xcel Energy was the first recipient of the Rocky Mountain Region Program’s Freedom Flight Award for our efforts to protect raptors around electrical facilities and install nesting boxes and platforms at our facilities.
Nest Box Program and Bird Cam
In 1989, the company partnered with the Raptor Resource Project in Minnesota to save the peregrine falcon, installing a special next box at their Allen S. King generating station. The project grew, along with peregrine falcon populations, to include active nest boxes at nearly all of their Minnesota power plants and several of their Colorado facilities as well. Xcel Energy later installed Web-based cameras in the boxes to help increase awareness for conservation efforts.
Today, the Bird Cam movement continues to grow. They offer eight different bird cams, featuring six different bird species: bald eagles, great horned owls, barn owls, peregrine falcons, American kestrels, and osprey. Last year, more than 100,000 individual computers logged on to Xcel Energy's Bird Cam site to watch bird families grow and develop (www.xcelenergy.com).