Jefferson County Planning Board member Clifford P. Schneider claimed that Apex Clean Energy failed to address the potential number of birds and bats that could die from colliding with their turbines’ blades and rotors for its proposed Galloo Island Wind Farm. He requested that the developer should conduct a radar study in 2017 to determine that statistic.
In a letter he submitted to the state Department of Public Service’s website last Saturday, Mr. Schneider, who is also a former biologist for the state Department of Environmental Conservation, said the developer did not include the collision mortality rate for fall or spring migratory species in its preliminary scoping statement and indicated that they do not intend to conduct a study to determine that statistic. The developer referenced two radar studies from Upstate NY Energy’s Hounsfield Wind Farm statement for its own statement, but provided no information from the studies.
“Since Apex has taken over, they have not offered a single new body of work,” Mr. Schneider said.
The two radar studies were conducted by Stantec Consulting Services, Topsham, Maine, in 2008 for Upstate NY Energy’s proposed project on the island, but Mr. Schneider claimed that the studies were misleading.
Mr. Schneider said that according to its spring report, the consulting firm found that only 19 percent of the avian species that flew over Galloo Island that year flew through the project’s rotor zone, which Mr. Schneider calculated to be 258,300 square meters by using the project’s rotor diameter, total turbine height and cross-sectional distance of the island turbine area. The consulting firm also indicated that the majority of birds flew high above the turbines.
In his letter, however, Mr. Schneider said the study was a “deceptive, misleading analysis” because it used percentages to describe the number of avian species that would have been impacted rather than using numbers.
“I think that (the industry) likes to keep it in metrics that are not understood by people,” Mr. Schneider said. “(They should) not only do the work, but they should also use metrics that people understand.”
Using Stantec Consulting’s data, Mr. Schneider calculated the number of birds and bats that would have flown over the island that year, the number that would fly through the rotor zone and the number that would have collided with the turbines to determine the potential risk of collision.
According to Mr. Schneider’s calculations, 1,360,338 avian species would have flown over Galloo Island in both fall and spring of 2008. A total of 247,587 birds and bats would have flown through the rotor zone in 2008 and 38,871 birds and bats would have collided with the turbines’ rotors and blades.
“You’re talking about potentially thousands of birds being killed,” Mr. Schneider said.
One influence on collision mortality that Mr. Schneider claims both Apex Clean Energy and Stantec Consulting overlooked was the potential impact of nights with reduced visibility, particularly on nights with a new moon.
To calculate the potential number of fatal collisions for these nights, Mr. Schneider used the consulting firm’s passing rate and percentages. That included birds and bats that flew below the tower height for 28 out of 91 nights during the fall and spring that either had a new moon or were between one and three days before or after each new moon phase. For his calculations, Mr. Schneider assumed that each bird or bat would have died on impact during overcast or cloudy nights and would have avoided the towers on clear nights.
Mr. Schneider said that in the worst case scenario, 6,805 birds and bats would have collided with the turbines during 16 nights where visibility was limited due to overcast, clouds or precipitation.
“They really are the conditions where it would be the most harmful,” Mr. Schneider said. “It is so black that you don’t know where you are. It’s disorientating as hell.”
Mr. Schneider also claimed that DEC should have addressed the lack of information about potential fatal collisions in the developer’s scoping statement.
While DEC commented on the developer’s statement by saying that they failed to discuss Galloo Island’s placement within the Atlantic flyway for migratory birds, Mr. Schneider said that the department should have encouraged the developers to determine the collision risk for their project.
Sean Mahar, the director of communications for DEC, said that department staff were still reviewing Mr. Schneider’s letter.
To address the potential collision mortality rate for the Galloo Island Wind Farm, Mr. Schneider recommended that the developer work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services’ Avian Radar Team to conduct an updated radar study and incorporate it into its “final report.” Mr. Schneider also encouraged all parties participating in the project’s Article 10 review process to consider establishing restraints such as nighttime shutdowns during migration periods.
“Wind energy is one of the nation’s safest, cleanest and healthiest forms of electric generation for all living things,” said Cat C. Mosley, public affairs manager for Apex Clean Energy. “We are aware of Mr. Schneider’s letter and are working with the appropriate agencies to ensure that the scope of review is appropriate and comprehensive.”
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