Kevin Kawula distributed his letter below to environmental organizations throughout Wisconsin in hopes of raising awareness about the shockingly high bat mortality discovered at operating wind energy facilities in the State. Windaction.org shares Mr. Kawula's concerns and thought it appropriate to feature his letter in this week's Wind Alert!
WindAction Editorials filed under Impact on Bats
Significant bat mortality at wind energy facilities first became widely known in the United States in 2003 when research scientists observed alarming numbers of bats killed at FPL Energy's Mountaineer wind energy plant in West Virginia. The forty-four turbine site located along the forested Backbone mountaintop was found to be slaughtering bats at annual rates of over 50 bats per turbine with some estimates placing the count at close to 100 bats. High mortality was also observed that year at the Meyersdale wind farm in Pennsylvania, another FPL project.
Since 2003, with the discovery of significant bat kills at the Mountaineer wind energy facility sited on a forested ridgeline in West Virginia, the wind industry has been battling the issue of how best to predict and site wind facilities to avoid, or minimize the problem. High bat mortality has since been reported at project sites worldwide, particularly involving migratory species, prompting concerns of cumulative effects on bat populations.
This week, Cleveland Plain Dealer bird blogger, Jim McCarty, wrote a delightful article on the successes of Audubon's Seabird Restoration Program in nurturing and tracking the return of rare seabirds to Maine's coastal areas. Mr. McCarty is obviously a bird enthusiast who has spent time researching and writing about the risks to migrating birds should a "string of colossal power-producing windmills" be erected in Lake Erie.
Dr. Thomas H. Kunz and others, in their peer-reviewed paper entitled “Ecological impacts of wind energy development on bats: questions, research needs, and hypotheses”, detail the significant risk that industrial-scale wind turbines pose for migratory and local bat populations in the Mid-Atlantic Highlands region of the United States. The authors project that by 2020, annual bat fatalities at wind energy facilities in this region alone can reach 111,000 bats. Kunz and others also state that their preliminary projections of cumulative bat fatalities are “likely to be unrealistically low, especially as larger and increasing numbers of wind turbines are installed.”