Articles filed under Impact on Bats from Virginia
Apex Clean Energy will turn the turbines off from dusk to dawn every year between May 15 and Nov. 15, when bats are foraging for food. But they could remain on when the wind is blowing faster that 15 mph or when the temperature dips below 38 degrees, conditions that keep the bats grounded.
MGC attorney William S. Eubanks notified HNWD by letter that the company's wind energy project will "almost certainly result in unauthorized takes of Indiana bats and Virginia big-eared bats," in violation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The letter demands that HNWD obtain an incidental take permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) or face either a USFWS enforcement action or a citizen suit by the above-named groups.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Bats serve important ecological functions that keep natural systems in balance, especially insect control. Their diminishment could impact humans in ways ranging from decreased crop yields and increased use of pesticides to greater incidence of insect-borne diseases. There is a risk that the public will accept wind energy as an easy solution to global warming without understanding the necessity of monitoring and mitigation requirements. It is important for the public to recognize that while the proposed development could produce up to 39 megawatts of power under ideal conditions, eastern turbines average less than a third of that amount over the course a year, and much less than a third during the summer when electricity demand is highest.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
What are we in Highland to make of these statements and actions? Clearly, these men have a stake in seeing turbines on Highland’s ridges. Rather than responsibly considering the bird and bat impacts in any sort of serious way, they go to great lengths to stifle or belittle credible research recommending that wind turbines be put on hold until bat mortality can be understood and mitigated and until bird impacts can be studied.