Apex Clean Energy’s Galloo Island Wind project is expected to displace, if not kill, thousands of birds and bats, an opponent of the project claimed in his avian risk assessment.
Clifford P. Schneider, a retired fishery biologist for the state Department of Environmental Conservation, published his own study Monday on the state Department of Public Service website predicting the potential impacts of the project, including increased mortality rates and the relocation of species, using assessments from previous iterations of the project and other environmental impact studies regarding wind energy. He recommended more comprehensive analysis to asses avian mortality and curtailing the project’s operations during migration periods.
Mr. Schneider said he decided to conduct his own study after the developer’s attorneys claimed the 2015 avian risk assessment conducted by Old Bird Inc. for Hudson Energy Development’s wind project on the island was not complete, adding that the document is crucial for reviewing the project. In order to determine the project’s actual projected collision risk and impacts, Mr. Schneider recommended in his assessment that an independent third-party conduct a comprehensive analysis.
“What I have done was provide an independent review as an ex-public servant,” Mr. Schneider said, adding that his assessment was a preliminary review that “qualified academic types” should verify.
In his assessment, Mr. Schneider discussed the potential decrease in biodiversity caused by the project creating an unsuitable environment for several species.
He cited a 1999 study assessing general wind energy facility impacts on male breeding grassland birds that calculated a 43.5 percent decrease in bird density within 180 meters, or about 591 feet, from wind turbines. Mr. Schneider said in his report that Apex Clean Energy’s proposed 574-foot-tall turbines could reduce the avian population density on Galloo or Little Galloo Island by nearly 50 percent if wind turbines have similar effects on the islands’ avian fauna as the grassland species described in the 1999 study.
Mr. Schneider said the shorebird, waterfowl and bald eagle density would also decrease because these species would want to avoid the turbines. In order to determine the potential mortality rate for bald eagles and other raptors, Mr. Schneider encouraged further quantitative analysis of the project.
“All (the old studies) talk about are general, qualitative comments,” he said. “I actually tried to quantify some of the risks.”
Based on previous assessments, other environmental impact studies and the project’s location within a major migratory flight pattern, Mr. Schneider claims that thousands of avian species would collide with the Galloo Island Wind project’s turbine rotors.
Mr. Schneider said in his assessment that by using data from two 2008 marine radar studies conducted by Stantec Consulting Services, Topsham, Maine, he determined that 31,097 birds were at risk of colliding with the rotor zone within Upstate NY Power’s Hounsfield Wind project. With this statistic and both projects’ location within the migratory flight pattern, Mr. Schneider argued that Apex Clean Energy’s project could increase avian mortality rates and further analysis should be conducted for the project.
“There are going to be thousands of birds and bats killed as they fly over Galloo,” Mr. Schneider said.
Mr. Schneider claimed in his assessment that Apex Clean Energy’s project could increase the number of colonial waterbird deaths in the area.
Using three studies from 2013 that reported a 0.12 to 0.14 percent mortality for herring gulls near wind turbines, which used similar methods as Old Bird’s surveys for Galloo Island, Mr. Schneider said the Hounsfield Wind Project would have caused an annual 935 ring-billed gull fatalities out of the 718,944 projected to fly through the project’s rotor zone in Old Bird’s 2009 avian risk assessment. The project would have also caused 22 to 40 caspian tern deaths, he said.
Using theses calculations as preliminary assessments, Mr. Schneider said Apex Clean Energy’s project could increase the number of deaths for both species, but actual mortality rates would need to be determined through visual population analysis.
“Even relatively small (mortality rates) can destabilize a population,” Mr. Schneider said.
Mr. Schneider made several recommendations for adjusting the Galloo Island Wind project’s operations to reduce potential avian and bat mortality.
In his assessment, Mr. Schneider recommended that Apex Clean Energy halt its project’s operations from sunrise to three hours after sunrise and from three hours before sunset to sunset from June 1 to July 15 to reduce the potential mortality rates of ring-billed gulls and Caspian terns flying over Galloo Island.
In order to reduce the potential mortality rates for nocturnal migrating landbirds and bats, Mr. Schneider recommended the developer halt project operations from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. from April 12 to June 15 and from Aug. 15 through Oct. 30 to reflect the migrating patterns described in previous Galloo Island surveys. He also specifically recommended that the developer set the project back 1,870 square feet from upland sandpiper and northern harrier habitats located on the southeastern side of the island.
“While we disagree with much of Cliff’s opinion, it is not our intent to conduct the project review through the public comment page of DPS website,” Ms. Mosley said. “That review will take place formally under the Article 10 process in the presence of experts who have been qualified to speak in their fields by the administrative law judges.”
Apex Clean Energy intends to construct 32 turbines and a 30-mile underwater transmission cable from Galloo Island to a National Grid substation in Oswego for its 110.4-megawatt project.
“The avian risk study submitted by Mr. Schneider will be reviewed along with all other material in the Article 10 proceeding for this project,” DEC said in a background statement. “The (DEC) will continue to work in accordance with the state’s Article 10 process with regard to the proposed Galloo Island Wind Farm project and respond to concerns as they are raised in that process.”