May 8, 2011

Group worries about wind farms' effect on Indiana bat

Written by AMANDA HAMON May 7, 2011

Noise, health concerns, unsightliness – all have been reasons some residents of Tippecanoe and surrounding counties have opposed a Chicago-based company’s plans to build a local wind farm.

An opposition group is adding another concern to the list.

Julie Peretin, a spokeswoman for the Tippecanoe County group RESITE Now, said members are concerned about the presence of the federally endangered Indiana bat at the southwestern Tippecanoe County site where Invenergy Wind LLC is looking to build a wind farm.

“One of our concerns is the bats’ importance in agriculture,” Peretin said. According to its website, RESITE Now advocates “responsible siting of industrial wind turbines in Tippecanoe County.”

“Bats eat insects that directly impact the health of our crops. If a turbine on my neighbor’s land is taking out bats that are helping my crop, I’m losing some rights there to an environmentally friendly pest control.”

The presence of the Indiana bat there was confirmed in a report the company submitted in January to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, according to Marissa Reed, a wildlife biologist with the organization’s Bloomington office.

Invenergy’s planned, 133-turbine wind farm would stretch into parts of Tippecanoe, Montgomery and Fountain counties.

A construction timeline for the project has not yet been established, said Alissa Krinsky, Invenergy communications director.

The Indiana bat – which has a body the size of small mouse – has been listed as endangered since the 1960s. Its habitat includes several Midwestern and Northeastern states, including its namesake state, Ohio, Illinois and Kentucky.

Reed said wind farms in Indiana carry the risk of killing bats, which can fly into paths of the large blades – especially during the spring and summer migratory seasons.

She said the fish and wildlife service has recommended that Invenergy complete a habitat conservation plan for the Tippecanoe farm site.

It also has recommended that the company apply for an incidental take permit, which would allow the deaths of a specified number of bats on the site. The permit, in turn, requires the company take conservation measures to help boost the bats’ population.

If Invenergy does not receive the permit and, in the future, the farm causes the deaths of Indiana bats, the company could be fined under the federal endangered species act, Reed said.

She said Invenergy officials have indicated to the wildlife service that the company plans to complete the habitat conservation plan. The plan is required to apply for the permit.

In a statement Krinsky provided, Invenergy officials said the company is committed to the co-existence of wind energy and wildlife.

The presence of endangered bats has led to snags in other construction projects. In 2009, officials stalled a project to improve Tyler Road, at the north end of Tippecanoe County, because plans to remove trees along the existing street interfered with bat mating season.

For their part, RESITE Now members – who Peretin said oppose utility-scale wind power projects – said they want Invenergy to make sure the project doesn’t interfere with the bats’ habitat before moving forward.

“We definitely want this to be taken into account before they come before the county,” Peretin said. “We want the company to follow the guidelines the entire way down. We don’t want them to blow this off.”


Including the federally endangered Indiana bat, about seven bat species are present in Tippecanoe County.

The most common is the big brown bat, which is found in urban and rural areas. Despite its name, the big brown bat’s body is only about 5 inches long.

Other species are the red bat, the eastern pipistrelle, the little brown bat, the silver-haired bat and the hoary bat.

The Indiana bat – whose body is typically about 1 to 2 inches long – is the most at-risk bat found locally. It has been a federally endangered species since March 11, 1967.

Source: Pat Zollner, Purdue University professor of quantitative ecology; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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