SunEdison Inc., owner of two wind farms on Maui, wants the government to increase the number of endangered Hawaiian hoary bats its turbines are allowed to kill.
SunEdison said it has confirmed three bat fatalities at the second of its two wind farms since it began operations in 2012. It is allowed to kill 14 bats over the 20-year life span of the second wind farm, which has 14 turbines. The company wants to be permitted to kill 80 bats.
After hours of deliberation at the state Capitol, the Endangered Species Recovery Committee decided Monday to let SunEdison move forward with the plan to kill more hoary bats. Final approval will be determined by the U.S. Division of Forestry and Wildlife, which voiced concern over the deaths.
“It is getting to be alarmingly high. I am really concerned about that,” said Scott Fretz, Maui branch manager for the Division of Forestry and Wildlife.
The opeapea – or Hawaiian hoary bat – became the official state land mammal in April.
SunEdison is also looking to increase the number of nene, or Hawaiian geese, it kills. Currently the Kaheawa Wind Power II turbines can kill up to 30 of the official state birds, including adults, fledglings, goslings and eggs, over the 20-year permit term. The company hopes to increase that to 48.
The Endangered Species Recovery Committee is made up of members from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Nature Conservancy, the University of Hawaii and the U.S. Geological Survey.
Maryland Heights, Mo.-based SunEdison estimated that, based on the three discovered bat deaths, a total of 18 may have died because of the wind farm. No one at the hearing was able to give an estimate of the number of hoary bats in Hawaii. The company said it has confirmed eight bats died between 2006 and 2014 at its first wind farm, Kaheawa Wind Power, which has 20 turbines.
SunEdison and the committee discussed mitigation strategies related to the incidental deaths of the state mammal.
SunEdison proposed it pay $50,000 for every “taken” bat with a cap of $3.45 million.
One proposal was that SunEdison would contribute that money to protecting and restoring 1,600 acres of habitat in Lahaina, on land owned by Makila Land Co. and the state. The area encompasses at least eight small to large valleys that have wind protection and riparian habitats that the “bats favor to travel and forage,” according to SunEdison’s proposal.
The money could also be used for research to help in the recovery of the Hawaiian hoary bats. The proposed research may be conducted at the mitigation site or at other locations in Hawaii. The final allocation of research funds and the amount of mitigation credit will be determined in agreement with USFWS and DOFAW.
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