OAKLAND – Criterion Power Partners LLC has formalized the conservation measures employed at its 28-turbine wind project on Backbone Mountain in Garrett County to avoid and minimize effects of the wind project on endangered Indiana bats and other wildlife.
The conservation measures are part of a habitat conservation plan for Indiana bats that was required for the incidental take permit issued to Criterion Wind by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The measures include modifying wind turbine operations during the fall to reduce bat collisions with turbine blades and barotrauma, an injury that results from sudden drops in air pressure near spinning turbine blades. The modifications minimize blade rotations at night when wind speeds are low, which is when bats are most active.
“Wind energy developments often affect resident and migratory birds and bats, but there are ways to address those impacts,” said Genevieve LaRouche, supervisor with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Chesapeake Bay Field Office. “The cooperation between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Criterion Wind is a model of conservation planning for endangered bats and wind energy.
It demonstrates the service’s commitment to environmentally responsible renewable energy and protection of our nation’s treasured landscapes and wildlife.”
Developing and implementing a habitat conservation plan is a requirement for obtaining an incidental take permit under the Endangered Species Act. Without such a permit, it is illegal to harm or kill federally threatened and endangered species. The plan and permit allow for projects that potentially impact threatened or endangered species to continue while the company takes actions to avoid, minimize and mitigate for the impacts.
“Our goal as a company has always been to generate and provide energy with a minimal impact on the environment,” said David Drescher, vice president of Exelon Wind and Solar. “Wind energy is a needed renewable resource and a necessary component of achieving a balanced energy portfolio. We will continue to work with agencies such as U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure that wildlife and wind energy can continue to exist together.”
The Criterion Wind habitat conservation plan was approved by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as part of the process of granting the Indiana bat incidental take permit. Under the plan, Criterion Wind will adjust wind turbine operations during the fall in order to avoid or minimize impacts to Indiana bats, which will also benefit other species of bats, such as Eastern red bats, hoary bats, little brown bats and big brown bats. Additionally, Criterion Wind will protect a nearby cave hibernaculum by installing a bat-friendly protective gate by 2016 to offset the unavoidable impacts to Indiana bats from turbine operations.
Criterion Wind has also voluntarily developed an avian protection plan that will lower the risk of impacts for migratory birds. Protective measures for migratory birds include burying all power collection lines and minimizing lighting at night at the turbines and buildings on site.
Criterion Wind is part of Exelon Generation’s portfolio of wind projects.
USFWS evaluated both the habitat conservation plan and the avian protection plan and provided a thorough analysis in an environmental assessment.
Documents will be available within a week at www.fws.gov/chesapeakebay. For an immediate copy, contact Julie Slacum at 410-573-4595 or at julie_ firstname.lastname@example.org.
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