Studying Birds and Windmills

Citing inadequate bird impact studies by wind farm developers along the Allegheny Front, Friends of the Allegheny Front (FOAF; announced plans to hire an expert from Cornell University to carry out a thorough nocturnal bird migration study beginning in Spring, 2004. The study will verify the relative numbers, species, and dynamics of spring bird migration along the ridgeline. The Front is one of the major routes for bird migration in eastern North America.

FOAF also asked the WV Public Service Commission for a moratorium on the NedPower project pending one complete year of monitoring studies. Evidence continues to grow that wind farms pose serious danger for birds, bats, and other wildlife. Studies released in October from the new Backbone Mountain wind project in Tucker County, owned by Florida Power and Light, reported over 400 bats killed. This is the largest bat kill in the world at a wind turbine facility, and it is conceivable that 100,000 more may be killed annually at this site. Mutilated bats had broken forearms, broken wings, and severed heads. This is intolerable considering many of these species only produce one young a year. The endangered Virginia big-eared bat is known to use a cave that is approximately 3 2 miles from the proposed Allegheny Front windmills.

In response to the deluge of wind power facilities planned or under construction in the tri-state area, FOAF is forming a coalition with groups in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia. A citizens group, Friends of the Appalachian Highlands, in Meyersdale, PA, recently issued a letter announcing a possible lawsuit against a planned wind power project on a 2-mile long swath of ridgetop near Meyersdale. The letter, which is a prerequisite for legal action under the Endangered Species Act, states that the erection of turbines and operation of the facility pose an immediate threat to an endangered species, the Indiana bat.

Tilting At Windmills

Windmill SizeStewards oppose 200 enormous steel windmills on the tops of 14 miles of mountains from North of Dolly Sods to East of Mount Storm Lake.

It makes no sense to save mountaintops and then cover them with whirling steel.

The windmills would reach over 400 feet above ground – visible for miles – and would be lit at night for the safety of airplanes. The blades turn at up to 200 miles per hour. They actually produce very little power, and coal-based power plants are still needed as backup when the wind is too weak or too strong to run the windmills. It would take 3,000 windmills to match the power of just one coal fired plant like the one at Mt Storm, and we would still need the fossil-fueled plant as backup.

The Campaign to Preserve Malpeque, a citizen’s group against the construction of windmills in their tranquil community on Price Edward Island, Canada, has an infomative web page: The Problems with Wind Turbine Industrial Complexes. Closer to home, Glenn R. Schleede, Energy Market & Policy Analysis, in Reston, Virginia has provided his analysis Evaluating the Costs and Benefits of Wind Energy: Overstated Benefits and Understated Costs Creates False Hopes for Wind Power [138KB pdf file]

“Wind power will be part of our energy future, but we have to be smart about where and how we go about it,” says Caroline Kennedy of the national citizens group Defenders of Wildlife. “West Virginia has already paid a high environmental price for this country’s energy demands.”

This rush to build windmills is made profitable only by temporary tax breaks and the fact that consumers in other more affluent states are willing to pay a premium for what they perceive, and are being told, is “green” energy.

Stewards joined local and national environmental groups in opposing the project. Defenders of Wildlife and Friends of Blackwater filed a notice of intent to sue based on potential harm to the West Virginia northern flying squirrel, the endangered Virginia big-eared bat, and migratory birds. Stewards has donated to the legal battles.

A local group of landowners and farmers, Friends of the Allegheny Front, (Contact: Donna Cook at 304-749-8424) filed a protest with the WV Public Service Commission (PSC) and continue efforts to protect their land and scenic mountain viewshed. They convinced the PSC to block Dutch-owned NedPower’s plan to build turbines in the project’s southern section, because it was too close to Dolly Sods. However the PSC approved NedPower’s 200-turbine facility on top of 14 miles of the Allegheny Front.

Citizens for Responsible Wind Power called for the PSC to halt permits for wind power until the state can develop siting criteria.

West Virginia Highlands Conservancy has debated the pros and cons of wind power on the Allegheny, and decided to oppose one Guascor Group project at Rich Mountain because of severe impacts on recreational views


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