Library filed under Impact on Birds from Montana
GREAT FALLS, Mont. – A wind farm in Montana might be killing more birds and bats than expected, according to preliminary findings of a study by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
A preconstruction acoustic survey for bats predicted that the wind farm’s impact would be low, but the preliminary results of the study show it’s been higher than anticipated. Over the first six months of the post-construction study, FWP is estimating with 95 percent confidence that the turbines killed between 120 to 397 bats with the figure likely 221 or about nine bats per turbine.
SDG&E agreed to help finance the Rim Rock project and purchase the power, but later sued NaturEner USA arguing it had been mislead about the threat to raptors. That prompted NaturEner to file a breach-of-contract counter suit against SG&E. The conditional settlement agreement to end the litigation was filed Feb. 11.
“Had SDG&E been aware of the truth, it very likely would not have entered into contracts involving hundreds of millions of dollars,” SDG&E’s suit states. The San Diego utility may be leery of the Montana project’s impacts on golden eagles following its own violations while building another major construction effort.
Since the wind farm became operational in October 2012, two raptor fatalities have been documented, Copeland said. That is “an extraordinary number” compared to higher figures documented at 20 wind farms in similar raptor habitat in the Pacific Northwest, he said.
The Montana Audubon Society says 10 species of raptors have been documented breeding at Kevin Rim, including ferruginous hawks, Swainson's hawks, prairie falcons, and golden eagles. The area is also home to nesting American kestrels, red-tailed hawks, peregrine falcons, great-horned owls, and burrowing owls.
The hawks and eagles have been here for generations, they've grown accustomed to the habitat. Now, construction and wind turbines are changing the landscape. "One of the ways that wind turbines come in conflict with birds of prey is the chance of collision, where they'll fly in, and they can be killed by the turbines," Platt says.
Federal officials are again delaying whether to list sage grouse in 11 Western states as threatened or endangered -- leaving in limbo until at least 2010 a spate of industries that could face sweeping restrictions if the bird is protected. The chicken-sized grouse ranges from Montana to California alongside livestock grazing, oil and gas drilling and an increasing number of wind power turbines.
An estimated 1,200 bats, most of them probably just passing through Montana, were killed after striking wind turbines at the Judith Gap Wind Farm between July 2006 and May 2007, according to a post-construction bird and bat survey. The number surprised Invenergy, which owns the farm, as well as government and private wildlife experts. "It's killing 1,200 bats a year and that's a lot more than anybody anticipated," said Janet Ellis of Montana Audubon, a bird conservation group. ...The study estimates that 406 birds, or 4.52 birds per turbine, were killed during the study period.
As wind power gears up in Montana, the effects of large-scale wind projects on wildlife remain a concern: Birds may be in the clear, but bats are running into trouble. Turbine-related fatalities at Judith Gap Wind Energy Center near Harlowton were 1,206 bats and 406 birds, according to a 2007 preliminary study prepared by TRC Solutions' Laramie, Wyo. office. Roger Schoumacher, a biologist and consultant for TRC, said the bat fatality count is higher than what generally occurs in the West.