August 3, 2008

With Wind Farms, Concerns About ‘Slaughter’ of Bats, Birds

By Allison M. Heinrichs, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Aug. 3--Some Pennsylvanians are wary of wind power.

Eric Williams and his neighbors in Wharton in Fayette County managed to keep a turbine from being planted about 3,000 feet from their homes after hiring a lawyer to negotiate with PPM Atlantic Renewal Energy Corp. The deal removes the turbines closest to the homes from the company's Chestnut Ridge wind farm, which consists of 24 turbines.

"I am not against wind energy," Williams said. "I just think that there are better places for it. Am I fighting a losing battle? Maybe, but at least when it's said and done, I can say I fought it."

The agreement ends months of research and meetings. But Williams remains concerned about the environmental impact of the huge turbines.

Worried as well is David Cale, owner of Laurel Caverns, the 435-acre geological park east of Uniontown.

Cale is trying to secure commitments from the state Game Commission and PPM to prevent a potential bat kill. Thousands fly over the mountain ridges in their annual migration.

Two years ago, PPM commissioned a study to learn how many bats could be affected by its proposed wind farm. Biologists hung nets for two nights in 10 locations and caught 138 bats. Cale calculates that if 24 nets -- that's one for each turbine -- were left up through the 14 combined weeks of seasonal bat migration, more than 16,000 bats would be caught.

Each net covered an area of about 1,000 square feet. That compares to 66,000 square feet carved out by a turbine's rotating blades.

"It's going to be a slaughterhouse," Cale said.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission, which is responsible for protecting the state's wildlife, has taken a wait-and-see approach. The 19 companies proposing industrial wind farms in Pennsylvania have agreed to report and study bat and bird kills.

"We're working to test this theory that if you curtail operations in certain conditions you can reduce the impacts on bats, but until we have results, we have no way to know if it would be effective," said Sam Enfield, a development consultant for PPM Atlantic Renewable.

The tests are being conducted at the company's 23-turbine Casselman wind farm in Somerset County. Enfield said results will be published on the Internet.


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