Wildlife slows wind power

We don’t think much of the subsidized wind industry, but three dead bats aren’t “thousands.”

The Wall Street Journal reports,

New federal rules on how wind-power operators must manage threats to wildlife could create another challenge for the fast-growing industry as it seeks more footholds in the U.S. energy landscape.

The death of an endangered bat in September at a wind farm in Pennsylvania was the latest in a series of incidents that have caught the attention of regulators and conservation-minded scientists, who worry that large numbers of bats, bald eagles and other birds are being killed by wind turbines’ spinning blades.

In January, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is set to publish new guidelines telling wind-farm operators how to measure the danger to wildlife at new sites and how to monitor existing sites. The guidelines are voluntary, but those who don’t follow them are more likely to face fines or penalties if their turbines kill an animal protected by federal law.

Already, some operators are changing their plans in anticipation of more scrutiny. Last month, Pattern Energy Group dropped plans for a 44-turbine wind farm near Sacramento, Calif., saying it couldn’t sufficiently protect bald eagles and other birds. The company is developing other projects where it expects to encounter less wildlife, and testing radar that could detect birds or bats…

One of the first large U.S. wind projects—in California’s Altamont Pass—found itself in the spotlight in 2004 after a state study said the roughly 5,000 turbines at the site were killing thousands of birds, including protected eagles, hawks and owls. The operators of the wind farm agreed to cut bird deaths in half as part of a settlement with environmental groups.

Since then, companies have grown more sensitive to the issue, and some hire biologists to regularly scour the fields under the turbine blades.

That’s how Duke Energy Corp. discovered the carcass of a quarter-ounce Indiana bat this fall at its North Allegheny wind farm in western Pennsylvania. The company temporarily turned off its turbines at night during the bats’ migration season.

The two other endangered animals confirmed killed in recent years by wind turbines were also Indiana bats, which were found in 2009 at the Fowler Ridge wind farm in Benton County, Ind…

Some scientists believe thousands of bats, including non-endangered species like the Seminole bat, are dying each year in wind turbines, based on available counts of bat deaths at existing wind farms.

“Most biologists will tell you that over time and cumulatively, [bats] won’t be able to sustain these fatality rates,” said Ed Arnett, the director of science and policy for Bat Conservation International…

Read the full Wall Street Journal article (subscription required).

4 thoughts on “Wildlife slows wind power”

  1. The only trouble with letting the enviornmentalists eat their own like this is that they still end up with the maxim that no human activity is good. But that is probably the reality they have to reveal of themselves. And then we have to have gumption enough to get on with our activity. Working on that.

  2. Either windmills are taking a toll on the birds or Col. Sanders is using them for a dumping ground. They’re called “Bird Grinders” for a reason.

  3. Hmmm, seems to be an example of the law of unintended, but predictable, consequences. Outside of its novelty uses wind power is a mythical promise when you factor in the spinning reserve needed to protect the grid from rapid drops in power when the wind stops.

  4. How many wind farms have been constructed without USFWS review of impacts on T/E species? They haven’t done a very good job of protecting raptors which have their own protective regulations. Now USFWS is going to play CYA by publishing new guidelines. What does FWS know about running wind farms? Most of these biologists are dead set against any kind of development but still they like to have their high carbon footprint 4X4 pickups and SUVs to drive around in. Just another agency that needs to be abolished.

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