Library filed under Impact on Birds from Virginia
Highlanders For Responsible Development (HRD) has donated $1,000 to support a West Virginia University research effort to better determine the status and behaviour of golden eagles in the central Appalachians, including Highland County and the surrounding area. A major concern for HRD and the WVU research group is the potential for golden eagle mortality and population impacts associated with construction of utility-scale wind turbines on mountain ridges in the region.
So far this year, they have recorded more than 2,800 raptors above Poor Mountain, which is along the migratory path that can take the birds all the way to South America. Raptors are threatened by turbines because they fly at such high elevations and tend to follow ridgelines when they migrate.
Wendy Perrone, executive director of the Three Rivers Avian Center in Brooks, W.Va., said Friday that she had not seen all the details about the project, but there are some concerns. "The mountain range is a migration route used for many decades and centuries....from butterflies to bats up to and including eagles," she said. Windmill projects have a potential for killing bats. Why this happens is not yet clear, Perrone said.
Highland New Wind Development (HNWD), developer of the proposed 20-turbine ridgeline wind project in Highland County, Virginia, has taken its search for investors to extremes, posting a website entitled: "The Greenest Windfarm in the World." ...This greenest-of-all posturing puts a new spin on the permit conditions imposed by the State Corporation Commission (SCC). Although potential investors will want to know why the SCC imposed precedent-setting wildlife monitoring conditions on the project, this critical information is missing from the HNWD website. Most of the extensive record, however, including expert reports and testimony submitted to the SCC, is provided here on the Virginia Wind website.
The environmental impact of Virginia's first wind farm in Highland County could shed light on how successful such farms will be in the Valley, state officials say. State agencies, led by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, will monitor the Highland New Wind Development LLC's 20 wind turbines to see how federally protected bats and birds are affected. Biologists are concerned that inland wind farms on the East Coast could kill large numbers of common bats, and possibly affect the federally protected Indiana bat and Virginia big-eared bat, according to the State Corporation Commission. The commission approved the Highland County project this week but required the developers to study its impact on the animals. "We still have no experience in Virginia," said Ken Schrad, an SCC spokesman. "The Highland project, with its monitoring and mitigation program, will provide that experience for future projects."
Highland New Wind chose not to seek a federal permit to protect the wind farm from possible immediate shutdown by government order if an endangered or threatened animal is killed or injured. That's a risk that regulators said the company is free to take if it wishes. Another battleground was how much Highland New Wind will pay for wildlife measures. Thursday's ruling initially capped monitoring costs at up to $150,000 a year. It capped shutdown-related expenses to benefit wildlife at either $50,000 a year or 0.85 percent of revenue from the prior year, whichever is higher. Previously released case documents said the project is expected to generate lots of cash long-term. Company financial analysts predicted Highland New Wind could earn an annual profit of $4.2 million after major expenses are paid off in 10 to 15 years. With state approval now in hand, the company said it will begin recruiting investors.
Backers of a proposed wind farm in Highland County would have to search daily for dead birds and bats and curtail turbine operations to limit loss of animal life under a proposed wildlife-protection plan issued Wednesday by a Virginia State Corporation Commission hearing officer. ...Citing "significant risk" to bats, and "a lesser risk" to birds, Skirpan recommended that backers of the 19-turbine project should pay for monitoring and altering their use, including speed, for the life of the wind farm.
Following State Corporation Commission's decision in March to remand the case to its hearing examiner for further review on environmental concerns, months of testimony have been submitted and reviewed. This week, the hearing examiner, Alexander J. Skirpan, submitted another report to commissioners, this time recommending "robust" monitoring of the potentially adverse impacts to wildlife, for the expected 20-year life of the project. ...Skirpan had previously concluded HNWD's project be approved by the SCC. But commissioners wanted to know what kind of details a monitoring and mitigation plan would include, rather than leaving those issues up to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, and HNWD.
Alexander Skirpan, the hearing examiner, made several recommendations most will appreciate, including requiring mitigation and monitoring throughout the life of the project as needed. ...But most still retain hope the project will never come to fruition. Hurdles remain. Investors will be wary of HNWD's decision to ignore strong advice about getting a habitat conservation plan and incidental take permit for endangered species. There are still lawyers waiting in the wings for the first time one of those raptors is found dead at the foot of a wind tower. Without taking the best steps to mitigate its own financial outlook, HNWD may not be able to get backing it needs.
Developers have cleared another hurdle for a wind farm in Highland County. A hearing examiner has asked the State Corporation Commission to approve his recommendations to reduce harm to native birds and bats.
The public version of this filing can be downloaded below.
All the talk about monitoring and, "moving forward with mitigation risk," as The Native Conservancy puts it, is farcical. What kind of conservancy is that? A meaningful monitoring system would require it to be a robust scientifically designed plan with continuous on-site day and night monitoring for the life of the project. The rub is, who would be the monitor? ...The only type of monitoring that makes sense is to do it prior to construction of the towers. To do so after construction is a meaningless scam.
The State Corporation Commission on Friday sent a proposal for Virginia's first utility-grade wind farm back to a hearing examiner for development of a plan to mitigate harm to rare birds and bats on Highland County ridges. In recommending approval last month for construction of 19 turbines, SCC hearing examiner Alexander Skirpan found that the Highland New Wind Development proposal posed a risk to birds and bats. Skirpan recommended a monitoring program, developed by the company and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, to reduce the environmental hazard.
Endangered bats and birds are at risk from Virginia's first proposed wind farm, but construction should proceed with the warning that its massive blades will be stopped at times if too many carcasses pile up. That was the decision Thursday from a State Corporation Commission hearing examiner who gave conditional approval to the controversial project in Highland County. Supporters and opponents have 21 days to comment on the hearing examiner's report. The case will then be forwarded to the commission for a final decision, which is expected early this summer.
ROANOKE -- A state hearing examiner has recommended construction of the first utility-grade wind farm in Virginia, provided it meets conditions to minimize harm to the environment. The recommendation announced Thursday goes to the State Corporation Commission, which will decide whether to approve construction of the 19-turbine development on Highland County ridges. SCC hearing examiner Alexander Skirpan found that the project by Highland New Wind Development poses a risk to bats and birds, but said a monitoring program by the company and a state agency following construction would help reduce the hazard.
This document includes studies in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia.
The September 20, 2006 VDGIF letter states: “We support the use of alternative energy sources, including wind energy. However, based on review of the information provided thus far by the Highland project applicant, in the absence of accountable mitigation conditions . . . we feel this project presents an unacceptable risk to wildlife.”
To reiterate, if the SCC chooses to license this project, we request adherence to the monitoring and mitigation recommendations described in this letter and attachments. In the absence of such conditions, we feel this project would pose an unacceptable risk to the Commonwealth’s wildlife resources.
Preliminary research shows wind turbines kill thousands of bats and birds in the Appalachian Mountains, which are a major migratory flyway, scientists say.....Dan Boone, a Maryland-based botanist and wildlife scientist, said laws such as the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act aren't enough to protect against bird and bat kills, deforestation and other damage done by wind turbines.
Tom Smith, director of the state Department of Conservation and Recreation's natural-heritage program, said detailed research is needed on the windmills' potential to kill birds and bats. "It's very hard to say there's not a significant impact [on birds] and not a need for additional studies," Smith said.