Library filed under Impact on Wildlife from Pennsylvania
The battle over wind turbines continues in Butler Township as opposing sides fight over bats, birds and what constitutes valid testimony. The Butler Township Zoning Hearing Board heard testimony from both sides again Wednesday as residents fought to stop a plan by Broad Mountain Development Co. LLC.
Some of the same conservationists who laud wind power as a cleaner, renewable resource are concerned about the turbine proposals. They fear bats and birds will get caught in the powerful windmill blades or the turbines will scare them away. ''It's not recommended that wind farms be built where there is a large concentration of birds,'' said Rick Wiltraut, a local ornithologist. ''Unfortunately, all that area is prime habitat for neotropical birds.''
A proposal to build wind turbines in central Bedford County took a step forward when the project developer submitted a construction permit application to the state recently. ...The 30-day public comment window for the permit closes at the end of November, but Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman Theresa Candori said the agency has already received enough requests for a public meeting to warrant holding one. The meeting hasn't yet been scheduled.
Iron pyrite was among the risks to water quality that opponents of the Sandy Ridge Wind Farm pointed to during Monday's state Department of Environmental Protection public hearing. "Given the formations, there is a likelihood there's some up there," Michael J. Byle, a civil engineer who is working with Gamesa USA, said after the public meeting and hearing on the proposed wind farm. Core drilling has just begun, and the company is looking for the acid rock.
Lane Johnson said the great blue herons that perch on and near his property in Bell Acres are like an annoying little brother that you wish would go away, but you also feel obligated to protect. ...he spoke during a public hearing Monday night against the proposed erection of a 60-foot wind turbine that would go up about a half-mile away from the herons' nesting spot -- or rookery -- because it might endanger the birds.
Bell Acres Council will soon decide whether one more footprint will disturb the great blue herons and other residents. An alternative-energy demonstration site - involving a single 66-foot-high wind turbine, a 15-foot-high turbine, some solar panels and a trailer - has been proposed by a collaboration of Metal Foundations (Ambridge), Vox Energy (Allison Park) and Jet Industries (Ellwood City) for a site near the intersection of Big Sewickley Creek Road, also designated as the Red Belt, and Turkeyfoot Road.
Each spring for the past three years, people in my neighborhood buzz about the return of flocks of great blue heron. ...Part of the reason the birds return to Bell Acres is Big Sewickley Creek, a small stream where the heron can fish undisturbed. But how much longer they remain undisturbed is anybody's guess. At the July 20 meeting of Bell Acres' Planning Commission, a proposal was introduced to turn a field about a half-mile from the heron nests into an "alternative energy center."
Turbines already are taking a heavy toll in West Virginia and Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Game Commission released a report last spring showing the death rate is highest for bats, which additionally face being wiped out by a mysterious phenomenon called "white-nose syndrome." The evidence has mounted since studies in 2004 showed 1,500 to 4,000 bats annually were killed by the 44 turbines on West Virginia's Backbone Mountain.
Although the zoning board now has ruled to approve a portion of the proposed wind turbines, recent action by the board of county commissioners would allow a wind power project to start without going before the zoning board. Earlier this month, Commissioners Vincent Zapotosky and Vincent A. Vicites voted to change the zoning ordinance to allow wind turbines as a permitted use in A-1, M-1 light industrial and M-2 heavy industrial zones. Previously, wind turbines were only permitted after obtaining a special exception from the zoning board.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Army Corps of Engineers will formally review whether the endangered Indiana bat and migratory birds could be harmed by 30 big wind turbines proposed for ecologically sensitive Shaffer Mountain in northeastern Somerset County. ...The federal review, requested by three state environmental groups, is the first U.S. Endangered Species Act assessment of the impacts of wind projects in the Eastern U.S. on bats and migratory birds.
In 2007, Gamesa Energy USA agreed to allow the Windber Area Authority to oversee the impact the proposed 30-turbine Shaffer Mountain Wind Farm would have on the watershed. As part of the deal, the authority imposed certain conditions on the development. Now, as the state Department of Environmental Protection is considering Gamesa's permit for the wind project, the authority wants to make sure the state is taking those conditions into account.
The first year of a ground-breaking effort to study the interaction between bats and wind turbines at the Casselman Wind Power Project shows that turning off the turbines during low wind periods reduced bat mortality by more than 70 percent. Iberdrola Renewables, the owner of the Casselman wind farm, partnered with independent conservation group, Bat Conservation International (BCI), for wildlife data collection at the southwestern Pennsylvania wind power project.
An eight-page Deficiency Letter from DEP on March 17 cites unacceptable plans for restoration of disrupted streams, an undisclosed timber disturbance, improper labeling and scaling of the construction site drawing, inadequate documentation of approval by the Federal Aviation Administration, etc. Gamesa hasn't satisfactorily met its legal obligation to consult with the Pennsylvania Natural Diversity Inventory. This is especially egregious because of the presence of state and federally endangered Indiana bats at the site.
While planning to harvest the wind, the Hazleton City Authority wants to protect bats. The threat to bats will be weighed as the authority continues planning for a wind turbine that could provide electricity to its water treatment plant on Route 424. "There are rare species of bats in the area. There has been some concern with wind projects and bats across the country," Jay Carlis, marketing director for a company developing the wind turbine, said.
Birds are not being harmed by turbines though some bat populations are being affected, the Pennsylvania Game Commission and wind-energy companies indicate in their first annual report. It's too soon to draw any conclusions, said Tracey Librandi Mumma, a state wildlife biologist and wind energy project coordinator who worked on the study. ..."Oh my gosh, migratory bats are being killed in great numbers," Mumma said, recalling her initial reaction. ...Veterinarian Dr. Jeffrey Payne of Berlin is skeptical of large-scale wind farms and fears they will have a detrimental impact on wildlife and habitat. And while he appreciates that studies are being done, he's not satisfied that they are reporting the full depth of the situation.
An effort to protect both wildlife and wind farm profits will benefit from an agreement by 20 wind energy companies to "avoid, minimize and mitigate" the impact of wind turbines on wild birds and mammals, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Game Commission said. Unlike Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina and Canada, Pennsylvania has no regulations for wind farm projects, relying instead on voluntary guidelines without enforcement provisions.
This formal statement was delivered to the Tyrone Borough Council addressing the high risk to Golden Eagles should the Sandy Ridge Wind Farm be permited on Ice Mountain in Tyrone County, PA. The statement was prepared by the National Aviary and other researchers.
A Gamesa representative recently claimed that its industrial wind plant sites are selected with ecological concerns in mind. If this is true, why was Gamesa not aware of the golden eagle transmitter study in the Alleghenies on going for more than a year? ...I believe that Gamesa uses research that only benefits its projects, not comprehensive studies.
Three environmental groups said Wednesday afternoon that they have obtained federal government records that show that the proposed site of the Shaffer Mountain Wind Project outside Ogletown is indisputably occupied habitat of the endangered Indiana bat, and that habitat used by the species already has been illegally destroyed.
A way to reduce the high number of deaths of migratory bats at wind turbine sites may lie in a groundbreaking study at Iberdrola Renewables' Casselman Wind Power Project in Somerset County. During the study, conducted at the 23-turbine project from late July to early October, selected wind turbines were stopped during low wind conditions to determine whether shutting down the big blades during low power production periods would reduce bat deaths while having a minimal impact on power generation. ..."The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is concerned that several species of bats, including potentially endangered bats, are killed each year by wind turbines," said Alex Hoar, the service's northeast coordinator for review of wind power projects.