NORMAL – A study of Heartland Community College’s wind turbine concluded it is not likely to affect the long-term status of birds or bats that live in or migrate through the area.
The researchers estimated that 8.9 bats and 2.7 birds die annually as a result of collisions with Heartland’s turbine.
But Angelo Capparella, an Illinois State University assistant zoology professor, is disappointed that Midwest Environmental Consulting Services did not do a more thorough job of identifying all the carcasses that were found, particularly the bats.
Of the four bat carcasses found between Sept. 1 and Nov. 8, two were identified as eastern red bats and researchers said the other two could not be identified, according to the report.
Capparella, conservation chairman of the John Wesley Powell Audubon Society, said if a threatened or endangered bat, such as the Indiana bat or northern long-eared bat had been identified, the college would need a special “incidental take” permit. With such a permit, state or federal agencies work with the permit holder to determine how to mitigate the problem, he explained.
The report suggested that, even though measures to reduce impacts may not be required, “Heartland Community College could consider examining the feasibility of raising the turbine cut-in speed from August through October to potentially reduce bat deaths.”
Those are the prime months for bat migration in this area, according to Capparella. Bats generally do not migrate on windy days, he explained.
Hubbard said the college is still evaluating the report.
He said the turbine cut-in speed of about 7.8 mph – the wind speed at which the turbine blades start turning – is “quite low” and Heartland is looking into the cost of making a change.
Capparella said changing the cut-in speed “wouldn’t have much impact on Heartland but it could profoundly lower bat mortality.”
The researchers who compiled the report also encouraged the college “to continue to permit scientific studies at the turbine site in future years.”
“They have a real opportunity at Heartland to have some good, cutting-edge science in terms of wind turbine collisions if they follow up on that second recommendation,” Capparella said.
Hubbard said that, being a school, Heartland most likely would not oppose someone doing further studies.
The turbine began generating electricity for Heartland in June 2012.
The study of bird and bat mortality began in 2013 but was cut short when the turbine was shut down. Dense vegetation also hindered the earlier part of the study.
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