Guidelines for conducting bird and bat studies at commerical wind energy projects

These guidelines, prepared by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and Division of Fish, Wildlife and Marine Resources, set forth recommendations to commercial wind energy developers on how to characterize bird and bat resources at on-shore wind energy sites, and how to estimate and document impacts resulting from the construction and operation of wind energy projects. By issuing these guidelines, DEC intends to provide a consistent and predictable methodology for developers to assist them in the planning and development process.

The purpose of this document is to set forth the protocols for conducting bird and bat studies at wind energy projects to provide information necessary for DEC to:

a. assess ongoing or expected environmental impact; and

b. make a recommendation to the SEQRA lead agency regarding the construction and operation of the project in order to avoid or minimize adverse environmental impact.

To perform such assessments and make a recommendation, DEC must consider information pertaining to the presence and activity of birds and bats at or in the vicinity of the site. In this context, the site means not only the real property boundaries or outline of proposed turbine locations on the ground, but includes the air space over and surrounding the project. One of the most effective means of reducing direct and indirect impacts to birds and bats is to site turbines in a location that will cause the least disturbance to migrating, breeding, wintering, roosting, and feeding birds and bats. It should be noted, however, that currently observed patterns of bat mortality at wind energy projects in eastern North America, especially for the migratory bat species, suggest that it may not be possible to greatly reduce the direct impact to bats by selective siting of turbines because turbines may, in fact, attract bats, perhaps from long distances. In addition to direct mortality caused by turbine blades, other negative effects from factors such as habitat loss or fragmentation, avoidance of otherwise potentially suitable habitat, increased human activity and development, and increased predator presence can result from the construction and operation of a wind energy project.

As wind energy development continues to expand throughout New York, more information is needed about the temporal and spatial use of habitats and the species composition of birds and bats using those habitats in order to relate wind energy production to its potential impacts. The recommendations for post-construction studies described in these guidelines are based on DEC's current knowledge of the best procedures for conducting thorough and meaningful post-construction mortality and displacement surveys at operating wind energy facilities in New York. As post-construction studies are conducted at more projects throughout the state over the next several years, these guidelines will be fine-tuned to incorporate the most efficient, effective and accurate methodologies to fill post-construction data needs.


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JAN 21 2009
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