Library filed under Impact on Bats from Maine
Much of the scenic beauty for which Maine is so widely known will be despoiled. The stated 2,700-Megawatt goal of Maine’s Wind Energy Act would require as many as 1,500 wind turbines, each hundreds of feet tall, with accompanying access roads and new transmission lines, on up to 300 miles of Maine’s hills and mountains. Those transmission lines, to carry the electricity that could be provided by a single, high-quality conventional generator, will add billions of dollars to New England electric bills.
The review of a proposed 62-turbine wind farm project in this Somerset County town has been put on hold in part because of concerns about the danger the turbines might pose to bats being threatened by white-nose syndrome, a rapidly spreading fungal disease.
Bat mortality is a typical concern at wind energy farms and it is standard practice to evaluate bat habitats and mortality rates during project reviews. The Department of Environmental Protection, however, may be revising its recommendations on the turning speed of wind turbines, which can be a threat to birds and bats that fly into them.
In January, the wildlife service updated its bat mortality estimate, claiming that at least 5.7 million to 6.7 million bats have been lost to white nose syndrome, prompting agency director Daniel Ashe to call it an "unprecedented wildlife crisis."
As winter approaches and many animals prepare to enter hibernation, biologists in Maine and throughout the Northeast are gearing up once again to monitor for a bat-killing fungus that scientists fear could wipe out some bat species in the region.
Diane Winn doesn't dispute the need for clean, renewable energy -- the kind provided by wind turbines and hydroelectric dams. But Winn and Marc Payne, her partner at Avian Haven Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center, are all about saving injured or abandoned wild birds. Wind turbines provide clean energy, but birds often die when they fly into turbines, and the noise the machines make can disrupt bird and human alike. For those reasons, Winn and Payne say they would close their North Palermo Road facility if Beaver Ridge Wind, an affiliate of Competitive Energy Service, builds three electricity-generating wind turbines on nearby Beaver Ridge. "No one argues with the basic fact that turbines kill birds," Winn said. "The only issue is how many are killed, and whether those numbers impact species populations."
This document includes studies in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia.
My viewpoint was, and still is, that the huge towers (260 feet high), gigantic blades (add another 150 feet), blinking strobe lights, permanent removal of wind-hindering vegetation, and highly visible road and transmission infrastructures are totally inappropriate for wild, undeveloped, scenic and highly visible settings. And I said I thought that opponents should focus on those issues, as well as the small return in electricity for the massive public price paid, aesthetically and otherwise, and should perhaps stay away from the issue of bird mortality caused by the rapidly spinning blades. The jury is still out on that, I said, and conventional wisdom is that vastly more birds are killed by high-rise windows and free-running cats......Well, so much for conventional wisdom. Editor's Note This opinion piece was written in response to a letter received from Lisa Linowes that is available via the link below.