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US WindForce calls Pinnacle a favorable spot

Wind Farm near Keyser is a favorable site for turbines based on wildlife considerations, according to extensive studies conducted by environmental consultants retained by the developer, US WindForce. That was the message from Monday night's meeting of the Community Advisory Panel, delivered by Jennie Henthorn of Henthron Environmental Consultants.

Wind Farm near Keyser is a favorable site for turbines based on wildlife considerations, according to extensive studies conducted by environmental consultants retained by the developer, US WindForce.

That was the message from Monday night's meeting of the Community Advisory Panel, delivered by Jennie Henthorn of Henthron Environmental Consultants, who coordinated a host of environmental studies as part of the project application for the 23-turbine wind farm proposed for Green Mountain.

Consultants primarily examined the impact the site would have on "rare, threatened or endangered" species, from bats to eagles and skunks to woodland rats, as well as bird migratory patterns and rare plant life. In virtually every case, the risk posed by the Pinnacle site was found to be low, mainly due to the absence of rare species in the area.

A bat netting operation conducted over three seasons, for example, captured only about 200 bats over the course of more than 30 nights of netting. None of the bats belonged to endangered species, and only four were rare. "We were surprised," Henthorn said of the findings. "This is a very low capture rate for mountaintop West Virginia."

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Wind Farm near Keyser is a favorable site for turbines based on wildlife considerations, according to extensive studies conducted by environmental consultants retained by the developer, US WindForce.

That was the message from Monday night's meeting of the Community Advisory Panel, delivered by Jennie Henthorn of Henthron Environmental Consultants, who coordinated a host of environmental studies as part of the project application for the 23-turbine wind farm proposed for Green Mountain.

Consultants primarily examined the impact the site would have on "rare, threatened or endangered" species, from bats to eagles and skunks to woodland rats, as well as bird migratory patterns and rare plant life. In virtually every case, the risk posed by the Pinnacle site was found to be low, mainly due to the absence of rare species in the area.

A bat netting operation conducted over three seasons, for example, captured only about 200 bats over the course of more than 30 nights of netting. None of the bats belonged to endangered species, and only four were rare. "We were surprised," Henthorn said of the findings. "This is a very low capture rate for mountaintop West Virginia."

Similarly, the consultants who conducted the field studies found only two small caves containing fewer than 400 winter-hibernating bats, only one of which was found to be rare. As for vulnerable habitat that might support rare species, the consultants found that the turbines' combined "footprint" of about 40 acres would not pose a threat to rare plants.

"This is a very small footprint," Henthorn said. "It's not considered significant."

A major wildlife concern is the effect of turbines on birds' migratory patterns. A consultant spent 87 days atop Green Mountainin the fall of 2007 - a total of 699 hours - and 45 days in the spring of 2008, for another 406 hours, and found that 89 percent of the birds passing through were common species.

"I'm not aware of another migratory study of this magnitude done in the state," Henthorn said.

Among the migratory birds observed, just four were rare species.

However, the consultant observed relatively large numbers of golden and bald eagles on migratory flights. While no eagle nests were found on the site - the nearest being 4.6 miles away at Jennings Randolph Lake - the numbers were high for migratory eagles. Partly in response to concerns about migratory patterns, WindForce dropped an array of turbines originally planned for the western side of Green Mountain.

Even with those findings, though, Henthorn said studies have found that eagles are not often casualties of wind turbines. "They are very good at avoiding turbines during migration," she said.

Keyser resident Frank O'Hara, a member of the community advisory panel who opposes the Pinnacle project, disputed Henthorn's findings. He distributed a release from the Allegheny Front Alliance - a citizens' group opposed to wind projects in the Appalachians - that questioned the impact of the project on a number of rare species, including eagles. "Studies have shown that golden eagles in particular are more than likely susceptible to being killed by rotating turbine blades during spring migration along the Allegheny Front," the report said.

Moreover, the report noted, "thousands of bats ... are killed over a few short weeks each year during migration at Appalachian wind-power plants."

Henthorn noted that additional wildlife studies would be conducted for one year after the project starts, to include mortality counts for birds or bats found at the base of the turbines. If those findings indicate a problem, "adaptive management" practices can be instituted to reduce the effect on wildlife.

All of the findings from the studies produced by WindForce were submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources for review and approval. The studies are available as part of the application submitted to the West Virginia Public Service Commission. That application is available at the Keyser and Piedmont libraries, the Elk Garden School, and online at the PSC and WindForce web sites.


Source: http://www.newstribune.info...

APR 7 2009
http://www.windaction.org/posts/19735-us-windforce-calls-pinnacle-a-favorable-spot
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