In 2009, the construction 40 out of 119 wind turbines began at the Beech Ridge Wind located in Greenbrier County, West Virginia. But the completion of the project was put to a halt when a federal districting judge ruled that the remaining wind turbines could not be built until the wholly owned subsidiary of Chicago-based Invenergy LLC applied for and received a permit to allow incidental kills of The Indiana and Virginia big-eared bats; both of which are an endangered species. This also involves completing a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) to ensure that the applicant takes the steps to avoid and minimize, mitigate and monitor the impacts to those protected species.
An announcement released on September 12 stated that Beech Ridge Energy LLC has applied to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for a Permit and building the remaining turbines is expected to have an effect on the endangered bats. Beech Ridge LLC has requested a ‘take’ of up to 53 Indiana bats and 14 Virginia big-eared bats during the 25-year project duration. This will derive from collision with turbines or from barotrauma, which is internal hemorrhaging from sudden drops in air pressure at moving turbine blades.
Mitigating the bat loss will also involve running the wind turbines only during hibernation periods and implementing a cave-gating project aimed at protecting hibernating Virginia big-eared bats. But Beech Ridge LLC must also comply with federal laws protecting birds as well.
Wind energy facilities have killed at least 67 golden and bald eagles in the last five years, but the figure could be much higher, according to a new scientific study by government biologists.The study also excluded the deadliest place in the country for eagles, a cluster of wind farms in a northern California area known as Altamont Pass. Wind farms built there decades ago kill more than 60 per year.
Two laws that follow close in suit with protecting birds are the Migratory Birds Treaty (MBTA) and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (BGEPA). Beech Ridge has stated that the company has developed a voluntary Avian Protection Plan, which analyzes the impacts of migratory birds and eagles that describes the measures the company will implement to avoid, minimize and mitigate adverse impacts.
As of the now Beech Ridge Energy is encouraging public review of the final HCP, the final implementing agreement and the final EIS. The USFWS is expected to issue a record of decision 30 days after publication of the notice of availability of the final EIS.
To view the notice in the Federal Register announcing the availability of a final environmental impact statement (EIS), response to comments, and final habitat conservation plan (HCP) for the Beech Ridge Wind Energy Project, visit http://www.fws.gov/westvirginiafieldoffice/beech_ridge_wind_power.html
Source: US Fish and Wildlife Service Public Affairs