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Mitigating avian deaths too expensive?

Having attended the State Corporation Commission hearings, as well as having followed wind-related topics for years, I would like to add to Rex Springston’s article, “Windmill Plan Is in Jeopardy.”

The article asserts the developer’s position that the state’s proposal for limiting bird and bat deaths is too expensive. Failure to monitor and mitigate for bird and bat mortality at wind projects poses unacceptable risks to bats and long-term concerns for migrating birds, especially at sites such as the one proposed for Highland County, where the bird and bat migration rates are extraordinarily high.

The most promising mitigation technique is to cease operations on low-wind nights during seasons when birds and bats are active. At Mountaineer, W. Va., where more than 4,000 bats were killed during a six-week period, the highest bat kills occurred on low-wind nights, with mortality dropping dramatically on higher-wind nights. Despite the fact that little energy is produced during low winds, some developers are reluctant to cooperate.

Bats serve important ecological functions that keep natural systems in balance, especially insect control. Their diminishment could impact humans in ways ranging from decreased crop yields and increased use of pesticides to greater incidence of insect-borne diseases.

There is a risk that the public will accept wind energy as an easy solution to global warming without understanding the necessity of monitoring and mitigation requirements. It is important for the public to recognize that while the proposed development could produce up to 39 megawatts of power under ideal conditions, eastern turbines average less than a third of that amount over the course a year, and much less than a third during the summer when electricity demand is highest.

Lucille Miller

Richmond Times-Dispatch

4 August 2007