The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service confirmed on July 26, 2012, that an endangered Indiana bat was found dead at the 61-turbine Laurel Mountain Wind Power facility near Elkins, W.Va.
AES Laurel Mountain, LLC, a subsidiary of The AES Corporation, notified the Service on July 9, 2012, that an unidentified bat carcass was found near one of the turbines at its facility, which has been operating since late July 2011. The bat carcass was located during post-construction monitoring that has regularly occurred since August 2011 to evaluate the facility’s effects on birds and bats.
The bat carcass was discovered around noon on July 8, 2012, and was taken to the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (WVDNR) office in Elkins. WVDNR biologists determined the bat could be an Indiana bat and tissue samples were sent to Western Michigan University for genetic analysis. The university lab released on July 26 results confirming that the carcass was an Indiana bat.
Pending further evaluation, AES has voluntarily ceased nighttime operation of the turbines at the Laurel Mountain facility. The facility has been testing different cut-in speeds to reduce bat mortality. The Indiana bat was found near a turbine that was operating at a cut-in speed of 3.5 meters per second, meaning the turbine begins generating electricity when wind speeds reach this level. The other group of turbines operates at 4.5 meters per second, meaning that turbine blades make less than one revolution per minute until the wind reaches that speed.
The Service is reviewing the incident and working with AES to reduce the risk for additional bat fatalities. One option available to the company is to seek an incidental take permit under the Endangered Species Act that will address potential recurrence of Indiana bat fatalities. The permit would authorize the incidental take of a listed species, as long as the company undertakes reasonable and practical measures to avoid, minimize and mitigate take of listed species. The Service is working with other nearby facilities, Beech Ridge Energy in Greenbrier and Nicholas counties in West Virginia and Criterion Power Partners in Garrett County in Maryland, on their requests for an incidental take permit.
The development of wind power and other renewable energy sources is important for the future of the country and health of the environment. The Service conserves and protects our nation’s fish, wildlife, plants, and treasured landscapes, and will continue to work with the wind power industry to minimize impacts to wildlife and the environment. For more information, visit: http://www.fws.gov/windenergy.
Indiana bats are found in the eastern United States. First listed as endangered in 1967, Indiana bat populations continue to be threatened by human disturbance of hibernation sites, loss of summer habitat, and most recently, the bat disease, white-nose syndrome.