Library filed under Impact on Wildlife from Pennsylvania
In a first-of-its-kind study, the owners of a Somerset County wind farm and an independent conservation group are joining forces to study the effects of turbines on bats. Bat Conservation International is conducting a controlled experiment in which select turbines at Iberdrola Renewables' Casselman Wind Power Project were shut down during certain wind conditions from July through earlier this month. It is the first study in the country to look at the impact of temporarily stopping the turbines on reducing bat deaths.
A Northumberland County firm has backed off a plan to build wind turbines on South Mountain in eastern Lebanon County. ...But birds and bats got in the way of the plans, said Justin R. Dunkelberger, chief executive for Penn Wind. He explained that the South Mountain site is part of a bird-migration path and is also frequented by bats. "As a wind developer, we have to be concerned with birds and bats," Dunkelberger said. "We want to be responsible developers."
While the open sky is big enough for 400-foot-high wind turbines and migratory birds, animal conservationists are airing their concerns about the threat windmills pose to wildlife. "Any place thinking about installation (of wind turbines) should take years studying the issue," Keith Bildstein, director of conservation science at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, said Friday. "That is a prescription the wind industry apparently finds distasteful." Bildstein and other local conservationists and bird-watchers say the wind industry fails to adequately study bird migration patterns before wind projects break ground.
This document provides a good summary of what information is available regarding the effect of wind turbine development on diurnal raptors. The full document, including conclusions and recommendations, can be downloaded by clicking on the link below.
Now, there are people who think it may be a good idea to build wind turbines on the Kittatinny Ridge (Blue Mountain). On Monday, a letter to the editor from Donald Heintzelman of Zionsville talked about the first such proposal. Lower Towamensing Township, he noted, is considering a request to put windmills around the Blue Mountain Ski Area. Heintzelman said that would place them in the path of America's most spectacular migratory route for eagles, hawks and other raptors. "As an ornithologist involved in raptor migrations ... I am unconditionally opposed to the installation of all wind turbines on this internationally famous ... migration corridor," he wrote. I am unconditionally opposed to it for other reasons, as well.
To the best of my knowledge, this is the first proposal by any company to site wind turbines on the Kittatinny Ridge or Blue Mountain ...As an ornithologist involved in raptor migrations and hawk watching along the Kittatinny Ridge or Blue Mountain, and author of several books, I am unconditionally opposed to the installation of all wind turbines on this internationally famous, and vitally important, raptor migration corridor.
Two years ago, PPM commissioned a study to learn how many bats could be affected by its proposed wind farm. Biologists hung nets for two nights in 10 locations and caught 138 bats. Cale calculates that if 24 nets -- that's one for each turbine -- were left up through the 14 combined weeks of seasonal bat migration, more than 16,000 bats would be caught. Each net covered an area of about 1,000 square feet. That compares to 66,000 square feet carved out by a turbine's rotating blades. "It's going to be a slaughterhouse," Cale said.
Wind energy is part of the state government's initiative to promote renewable resources. ...However, not everyone sees wind energy as the solution. ...The construction of wind farms, however, can be expensive, and they must be refurbished or decommissioned after 15 to 25 years, according to wind experts. Companies that build them rely heavily on substantial federal tax credits. In addition, area power companies are offering customers the option to voluntarily pay higher energy bills to promote wind energy. Because of all the complications, not all plans come to fruition, including a proposal to build 25 turbines in Cross Creek Township that developers recently scrapped.
The tiny, endangered Indiana bat lives on Shaffer Mountain in northeastern Somerset County and that should be enough to keep 30 big wind turbines off that ecologically sensitive Appalachian ridge, according to three environmental groups. The groups -- Sensible Wind Solutions, Mountain Laurel Chapter of Trout Unlimited and the Allegheny Plateau Audubon Society -- yesterday served the Spanish-owned wind power company, Gamesa Energy, with a notice of intent to sue under the federal Endangered Species Act. According to the notice, the site where the 404-foot tall turbines and 18 miles of service roads would be built on 22,000 acres of leased land is confirmed habitat for the Indiana bat, listed as an endangered species since 1967. ...Gamesa officials yesterday declined comment.
Opponents of the controversial Shaffer Mountain Wind Farm have issued a notice of intent to file suit against the developer over claims the project will threaten an endangered species living on the site. John Buchan Jr., one of the founders of Sensible Wind Solutions, said the group mailed the notice today to nearly 500 state and federal lawmakers and officials. It signals their formal intent to file suit with federal and state agencies charged with protecting the Indiana bat, which is on the endangered species list. ///It was a Gamesa-sponsored study performed last year by Bat Conservation and Management, of Carlisle, and Sanders Environmental Inc., of Centre Hall, that found juvenile male Indiana bats on the proposed project site. Armed with the results of that study and testimony from Pennsylvania State University professor and bat researcher Michael Gannon, the group hopes to get the project stopped.
Every speaker last night made it clear that none of them were against wind power development, but were opposed to the irresponsible siting of wind farms. Blue Knob area residents Clair Chappell and Dr. Todd Stull spoke about their first-hand experiences of having a group of wind turbines close to their homes. Chappell and Stull were told that the wind turbines made "no noise" when the two men first heard about the wind farm construction near their properties. Stull told the crowd that "nobody from Gamesa has ever come to my house about our complaints." Stull said that the wind turbine noise is especially loud at his house, by which he compared it to a jet aircraft constantly flying overhead.
A controversial proposal to build 30 wind turbines in an ecologically sensitive watershed containing a wilderness trout stream on Shaffer Mountain in northeastern Somerset County has been judged deficient by the state. A Feb. 22 letter from the state Department of Environmental Protection identifies more than two dozen deficiencies and concerns in the wind turbine permit application of Gamesa Energy USA, a Spanish wind power developer and turbine manufacturer. It requests additional information. ..."This is an untouched area with a cluster of environmentally sensitive issues," Mr. Buchan said. "We hope to get Gamesa to see the light. If not, we'll fight it for as long as it takes."
The fight to stop the Shaffer Mountain Wind Farm will be pushed to federal court with a claim that the facility will harm an endangered species living on the site, according to John Buchan Jr., an ardent opponent of the project. Buchan, one of the founders of Sensible Wind Solutions, said the group will send a notice of intent to file suit with federal and state agencies charged with protecting the Indiana bat (Myotis sodalist), which is on the endangered species list. Sensible Wind Solutions, a not-for-profit group seeking the relocation of Gamesa Energy USA's 30-plus turbines slated for the Allegheny Front, believes the bat has a reproducing colony somewhere on the proposed site, the letter will state, Buchan said.
What's good for communications towers should be good for wind turbines, which can be 200 feet tall. ...Already the largest wind producer east of the Mississippi River, and with an ambitious goal of increasing wind power in the state 20-fold, Pennsylvania has a special obligation to ensure that each proposed wind farm is subject to environmental review. Such analysis must reject sites that are likely to lead to significant fatalities for birds and bats. The sooner such a scientifically based process is in place, the sooner the state will have a set of rules by which wind developers can proceed on projects with greater predictability.
The state Department of Environmental Protection has issued a letter of deficiencies about the controversial Shaffer Mountain Wind project, The Tribune-Democrat has learned. The nine-page technical review letter, dated Feb. 19, raises a list of concerns about Gamesa's post-construction stormwater management plan, required to gain DEP's national pollutant discharge elimination system permit. It reiterates many of the issues raised by citizens in hearings and in comments to the DEP. ...The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also has questioned the company about impacts to Indiana bats and bird migration. DEP also recommended that Gamesa respond to 22 questions gathered through the department's public comment period. Many of them deal with concerns about water quality, forest fragmentation and wildlife habitat. Gamesa has 60 days to respond.
Audubon Pennsylvania and others concerned about bird habitat on the Susquehanna River are relieved that Norfolk Southern Corp. is no longer considering building a wind turbine at its Enola freight yard. It's particularly good news, they contend, for the state's only colony of great egrets on Wade Island north of Enola. ...This is a great example of why Pennsylvania needs a formal windmill-siting process that would include environmental and other research within a legal framework.
Great egrets -- large, long-legged white birds -- are considered endangered. Terry L. Master, an East Stroudsburg University biology professor, has described Wade Island as the only colony of great egrets in the state. Norfolk Southern Corp. has crossed the Enola freight yards in East Pennsboro Twp. off its list of potential sites for a wind turbine. The reason has a lot to do with nearby Wade Island in the Susquehanna River, a legally protected bird sanctuary for great egrets. "We heard the concerns expressed about the proximity of the bird sanctuary," Norfolk Southern spokesman Rudy Husband said. "We will look elsewhere in our 22-state network."
Pennsylvania is also well known for its raptor migration, which truly is a natural splendor at Hawk Mountain in Kempton during the fall and spring. The golden eagle, which has been seen along the Delaware River and on Kittatinny Ridge, is believed to be the raptor at highest risk. Golden eagles migrate along the Allegheny Front, on the eastern edge of the Appalachian Plateau, which is also a great wind resource. "Wind is a renewable resource, so that's positive. No carbon emissions. No air pollution. From that standpoint, (wind turbines) are an ideal source of power," Brandes said. However, in Pennsylvania, the best time for turbines is the winter, yet peak power loads are in the summer, Brandes said. And these 400-foot-tall turbines - taller than the Statue of Liberty - are land intensive. It takes 2,000 modern turbines to replace one typical coal-fired power plant, of which Pennsylvania has 25 in the commonwealth, said Brandes. Plus, they may have an impact on habitat and bird safety.
As the debate goes on, the turbines are going up in record numbers -- a trend that's expected to continue as the clean energy industry moves to take advantage of concerns about global warming and rising fossil fuel costs. ...Rick Webb, a senior scientist in the University of Virginia's Department of Environmental Sciences, isn't so sure wind power, particularly on the mountains of the mid-Atlantic, will help much. Webb participated in a National Academy of Sciences committee that studied wind power and released a report this year that found wind power is growing, but in many places, guidelines for development are lacking. ''I think the potential electrical supply and the potential reduction to other sources of power won't be great enough to compensate for environmental damages on the ridges,'' Webb said, adding he believes offshore development of wind farms would be more useful because there is a more-abundant supply of wind there.
...environmentalists already have voiced concerns about what they say are the negative effects of fragmenting the forestland. Stan Kotala, president of the Juniata Valley Audubon Society, said Ice Mountain in Blair County, where part of the project would be built, is unique because it has a large expanse of unbroken forest. That interior forest is favored by some species including the bobcat, fisher and scarlet tanager, Kotala said. The county Planning Commission's Natural Heritage Inventory designated the area a natural heritage area, he said. "We just feel that it should be protected," he said. Gary Thornbloom, chairman of the Sierra Club Moshannon Group, said the biggest concern is where the wind industry is putting its projects.