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Habitat drives wind farm debate  

How power-generating wind turbines affect birds and bats figured prominently in testimony Thursday as a county hearing on the proposed White Oak Wind Energy Center entered its third day.

Paul Kerlinger, a bird migration and ecology expert from Cape May Point, N.J., spoke before the McLean County Zoning Board of Appeals. About 160 people attended the hearing at Heartland Community College.

Kerlinger said the number of birds killed per year by turbines depends on the location. Areas with better habitat for birds will have higher death rates, he said.

The 100 proposed turbines could kill about three to four birds each per year, he estimated.

“That’s not many birds if you consider the number of birds out there,” Kerlinger said.

Most of the 12,000 acres for the proposed wind farm along the McLean-Woodford county line is tilled farmland and of poor quality for nesting birds, he said.

He said he based his estimate on numerous studies, including those in the Midwest with land similar to the proposed wind farm site. National studies show the bird death rate ranges from one to seven birds per turbine per year, he said.

Any change in birds’ migratory patterns also likely would be minor, Kerlinger said. Migrating birds typically fly at an altitude of about 500 feet and the turbines would be 400 feet tall, he said.

After he spoke, audience members asked questions.

One of them was Gary Lambert, who owns 20 acres in rural Carlock. He said he occasionally finds dead birds on his property and there are no turbines around. Lambert asked if all birds found around a turbine are considered to have been killed by the turbine when statistics are compiled.

Kerlinger said they are.

“Don’t birds die of old age?” Lambert asked.

It also was announced that people having questions for Tom Hewson of Energy Ventures Analysis, Arlington Va., will be able to talk to him via conference call during Monday’s hearing. Hewson testified Wednesday, but he had to leave before everyone who wanted to ask him a question had a chance.

Hewson, an expert hired by opponents of the wind farm, said the turbines’ noise levels and shadows would harm the quality of life near them.

The audience also heard expert testimony about bats from Russ Romme of BHE Environmental Inc., Cincinnati, Ohio.

He said there were nine species of bats in the general project region. The mortality rate at an Iowa wind farm was 8.4 bats per turbine per year, which he said was not a danger to bat populations.

Environmental poisons, destruction of habitat and bats colliding with tall buildings were other reasons cited for bat mortality.

Wind farm hearing

What: Continuing McLean County Zoning Board of Appeals hearing on a special-use permit for the proposed White Oak Wind Energy Center

When: 6 p.m. Monday and 6 p.m. Wednesday and possibly 6 p.m. Thursday. No hearing on Tuesday.

Where: Government Center, 115 E. Washington St.

By Sharon K. Wolfe
swolfe@pantagraph.com

pantagraph.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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