Two studies Apex Clean Energy is planning to provide to help assess how its Galloo Island Wind project could affect bats are inadequate for determining the potential impacts, argues avian advocate Clifford P. Schneider.
Mr. Schneider, a former biologist with the state Department of Environmental Conservation, said Wednesday in a letter to the state Public Service Commission that the 2008 bat study that the developer plans to include in its project application for the state Article 10 law review process fails to follow state and federal guidelines and account for the current proposed project specifications and Galloo Island ecosystem.
The avian advocate also said the bat survey conducted by North East Ecological Services in 2015 that Apex plans to submit with its application is inadequate for helping determine the project’s potential effects on bat populations because it only served as a supplemental study conducted in the summer to determine whether there were any Indiana brown bats, which are endangered, at the project site.
“They need more recent data and they need a couple more years of data,” Mr. Schneider said.
Mr. Schneider’s Wednesday letter is the most recent effort to convince Apex and the PSC that the developer needs to have additional, updated studies conducted.
The avian advocate said in his letter that the developer should conduct two years of new studies on migratory bats on the island.
“They really need to do more,” Mr. Schneider said, adding that “they hadn’t done any additional work” since the developer purchased the project in 2015 from Hudson Energy Development.
Both the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and DEC recommend that studies used to determine the potential effects commercial wind energy facilities would have on bats should be conducted within the full period of migration from April 15 to Oct. 15, Mr. Schneider said.
The 2008 study, the Bat Risk Assessment and Pre-construction Monitoring report prepared by Babcock & Brown Renewable Holdings Inc. for Upstate NY Power’s Hounsfield Wind project,, however, was conducted from June 15 to Oct. 31, Mr. Schneider said in his letter.
“They have to do the whole season,” Mr. Schneider said. “All they have to do is go back to the guidelines.”
The report from 2008 also assessed the potential for bat collisions with Upstate NY Power’s proposed turbines, particularly collisions in the rotor-swept zone created as the blades rotate, by placing microphones on two meteorological towers at different elevations.
Mr. Schneider, however, said in his letter microphone placement for the 2008 study doesn’t correlate with Apex’s current proposed turbine height of just under 600 feet. The biologist said in his letter that the highest microphone for the study placed at 59 meters, or 193.6 feet, would only account for activity around the lowest point of the rotor sweep from Apex’s turbines, which he measured at 54 meters, or 177.2 feet.
Mr. Schneider based his calculations on the Vestas V126-3.3. megawatt turbine model, which he said he used because he “ventured a guess that it was going to be basically the same,” as whatever model the developer chooses due to the similarity in height and nameplate capacity.
“In 2008, it was a different turbine,” he said. “That’s another reason to do it over.”
The 2008 report, Mr. Schneider said, also doesn’t account for the population changes that occurred between the 2008 and 2015 studies.
While most bats recorded in the 2008 study were Myotine Bats, which were found near the microphone at the lowest elevation at 10 meters – or 32.8 feet – Mr. Schneider said the 2015 report showed a decrease in that species’ population and the populations for bat species known for their activity at higher altitudes increased. In the letter, Mr. Schneider argued the shift in population numbers in bats that are more active at higher altitudes meant more possible bat-turbine collisions.
“Most of the bats in 2015 are more active at higher heights, particularly the Hoary bat and the Eastern Red Bat,” Mr. Schneider said. “They’re more apt to be affected.”
Apex Clean Energy plans to build 30 turbines for its project with each 3.6-megawatt turbine “just under” 600 feet. “We have and continue to work closely with the agencies. We have conducted all studies in accordance with recommendations from the agencies,” said Neil T. Habig, senior director of project development for Apex Clean Energy, in an email.
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