A retired biologist argues that Apex Clean Energy’s application for its Galloo Island Wind project should be deemed incomplete because he believes a few of the developer’s supplied studies are flawed.
In a letter he submitted Oct. 19 to the Department of Public Service, Clifford P. Schneider said the developer should have new radar and migrating bat studies conducted to assess its 108.9 megawatt-project’s potential effects on birds and bats before its application for the state Article 10 review process should be deemed complete.
Mr. Schneider, a former state Department of Environmental Conservation fishery biologist, argued that the 2008 studies provided by the developer were outdated and too short to assess the project’s potential effects, and he asked department CEO John B. Rhodes, who also chairs the Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment, to designate Apex’s application as incomplete.
“They really ought to send (Apex) back to the drawing board and really make them do another year or two” of studies, Mr. Schneider said.
The retired fishery biologist contested in his letter that the 2008 radar study was insufficient because it was conducted using now outdated radar technology, the height of smaller turbines from the about decade-old Upstate NY Power’s Hounsfield Wind project and was done in only one year, which he argued failed to follow state Department of Environmental Conservation guidelines for habitats such as Galloo Island.
A consulting firm made efforts this year to reanalyze the data from the 2008 radar study by accounting for different technology and methods from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, efforts that described in an assessment provided with the developer’s application.
The assessment, however, concluded that “statistics resulting from the reanalysis are not considered valid measures of avian or bat activity and therefore should not be used as indices of risk,” because of the use of varying technology between the two analyses. The assessment, however, also said that no correlation had been established between avian passage and mortality rates.
“It had turned out probably to be just a waste of time,” Mr. Schneider said. “It should really be redone.”
Neil T. Habig, senior director of project development for the developer, said in an email that experts introduced avian radar studies when few wind farms existed, and agencies have devalued the studies and have been moving away from radar study requirements “because they have proven to be a poor predictor of risk.”
“Now there is an abundance of operational data from dozens of wind farms showing passerine mortality is not a significant issue,” Mr. Habig said.
The avian advocate also challenged Apex’s supplied bat study in his letter, saying it also doesn’t account for the current turbine models. He also said the supplemental bird and bat studies conducted in 2015 and described in the developer’s application “provide no additional insight.”
“With regard to Cliff’s comments on bat studies: bat studies were redone in 2015 using current (fish and wildlife service) protocols,” Mr. Habig said. “We have and continue to work closely with the agencies and our study work is in compliance with what DEC and (the state Department of Public Service) have requested.”
Apex previously claimed that Mr. Schneider didn’t meet the criteria under Article 10 regulations to qualify for party status. Its attorneys from Young/Sommer LLC argued that he didn’t qualify because he lives more than 30 miles from the project site and doesn’t have a background required to assess the project’s potential risks to bird and bat populations
“Cliff is well intentioned but misinformed on the process and the science,” Mr. Habig said.
Apex plans to build 30 turbines on Galloo Island in the town of Hounsfield for its 108.9-megawatt project as well as a 32-mile underwater transmission cable that will interconnect with a substation in Oswego.
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