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New York sets guidelines for wind turbine harm to birds, bats  

Guidelines meant to facilitate wind power development across New York state while minimizing the potential impacts to birds and bats were proposed Thursday by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, DEC.

Currently, six wind farms are operating with a rated capacity of 423 megawatts from 263 turbines in Madison, Wyoming, Lewis and Erie counties.

Five other wind farms that are under construction in Clinton, Wyoming and Steuben counties will provide an additional 405 mw from 238 turbines when completed in the summer of 2008. More than 30 additional wind farm siting proposals are actively undergoing environmental review.

New York is working towards achieving a Renewable Portfolio Standard whereby the state must meet a goal of 25 percent renewable energy generation by 2013.

DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis called wind energy development “an important component of Governor Eliot Spitzer’s clean renewable energy initiative in New York.”

“As proposals for commercial wind energy ventures continue to increase across the state, these draft guidelines will provide a valuable tool for those evaluating a project, as well as for our staff charged with protecting the state’s critical bird and bat populations,” Grannis said.

As construction of wind turbines increases, there is also the increased potential for birds and bats to collide with the towers and rotating blades. The presence of spinning turbines may also induce behavioral changes in nesting or migrating birds, and in foraging bats, according to the DEC.

During the environmental review process, wind energy proposals must include assessments of the impacts the project could have on wildlife – especially birds and bats – and other natural resources. In the past, these assessments have been completed on a case-by-case basis.

The draft guidelines suggest that before expending a lot of effort to site a wind energy project, developers should determine whether or not the location is within the habitat of a bird or bat species that is listed as threatened or endangered.

Another suggested consideration is whether the location of the project is within five miles of the Atlantic coastline or the shoreline of one of the Great Lakes – areas that are frequented by birds and bats.

The proposed guidelines provide a standardized process for completing assessments, which both benefits project applicants and improves the quality of the information obtained about bird and bat populations.

The new guidelines outline DEC’s recommendations to commercial wind energy developers on how to characterize bird and bat resources at wind energy sites and how to document and estimate bird and bat mortality resulting from collisions with turbines.

The protocols in the guidelines are intended to allow comparison of data collected at different sites and in different years so that the information can be used to assess the ecological effects of wind energy generation.

Protocols for both pre-construction studies and post-construction monitoring are included in the proposed guidelines.

DEC began development of the draft guidelines after collaborating with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and other stakeholders at a New York Wind/Wildlife Technical Workshop in August 2006. Workshop participants presented information on bird and bat impacts at existing wind farms as well as various study methods and sampling technologies.

Since the workshop, DEC has met with individual wind energy developers to discuss recommendations for pre-construction studies and post-construction monitoring at specific locations. Information presented at the workshop and the shared experiences provided by the developers have been incorporated into the proposed guidelines.

To view the proposed guidelines, click here.

Public comments are welcome until March 7, 2008. Comments can be mailed to Brianna Gary at NYSDEC Bureau of Habitat, 625 Broadway, 5th Floor, Albany, NY 12233-4756 or sent via email from the website.

Environment News Service

28 January 2008

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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