News and analysis about renewable energy in California.

Killing Endangered Bats Worth $1 Million Each Per Year

An understandably upset little brown bat | Photo: USFWS/Flickr/Creative Commons License

In case you thought the wildlife and wind turbine conflict issue was limited to eagles, condors, and California, think again. A Vermont wind installation is seeking permission to legally kill four endangered bats a year with its turbines, and says that the permit would save the company $4 million a year.

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The Kingdom Community Wind project on northern Vermont's Lowell Mountain Ridge, a joint project of Green Mountain Power (GMP) and Vermont Electric Co-op, will consist of 21 three-megawatt turbines along five miles of ridgeline. A flashpoint for controversy in northern Vermont, the project poses a serious threat to the local population of little brown bats, as well as a few other bat species.

Little brown bats, a.k.a. Myotis lucifugus, are one of North America's most common bats. But in Vermont, the bat population has been hit so hard by the deadly epidemic white nose syndrome, which has a mortality rate of 95 percent, that the state has listed the species as endangered.

According to GMP, running the facility in such a way as to protect the bats would require the turbines be "curtailed" -- shut down, essentially -- at night during the bats' active season, about six months a year. That would cost the company an estimated $4 million a year in power it couldn't generate and sell.

According to Vermont Public Radio, the state's Agency of Natural Resources says that 19 of the state's 20 wind installations have had little brown bat mortality issues. Nonetheless, the agency is considering a state "take permit" that would allow GMP to kill four little brown bats each year, along with three bats of other species. In exchange, GMP would fund a state Fish and Wildlife Department project that protects maternal bat colonies.

Of course, bats aren't just injured by direct turbine blade strikes: the abrupt low air pressure caused by the high-speed whoosh of the turbine blades can cause fatal internal hemorrhaging. That's actually the cause of about 95 percent of bat fatalities in most wind turbine studies. Given that a bat might make it a few hundred yards while bleeding internally, and that Kingdom Community Wind is atop a ridge surrounded by thick forest full of hungry scavengers, finding each bat killed by GMP's turbines is probably not possible.

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About the Author

Chris Clarke is a natural history writer and environmental journalist currently at work on a book about the Joshua tree. He lives in Joshua Tree.
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Excellent article. Keep them coming because only through more stories like this can people get up to speed and fight this insidious industry. Lately I have been trying to get the word out how ridiculous and corrupt the FWS " incidental take permits" really are. For example if one of these kill or poaching permits is given for one condor or bald eagle then 50 could die because there is no industry oversight and they won't tell you about others.
For anyone that thinks for one second this industry with their "voluntary regulations" can be trusted, I will remind all readers that the FWS and wind industry haven't told the world about all the eagles slaughtered in Texas by turbines. But even if by some great stretch that these folks were to be honest, if one dead eagle is found then many others will have died because they never come close to finding them all. At Altamont mortality studies found 10.8 dead eagles a year but the death toll estimates were 75-116 eagles every year.
For endangered bats this lack of accountability will be a thousand time worse because they are much harder to find, they are quickly gobbled up by scavengers, and in all honesty the wind industry barely looks for these little guys. Altamont Pass has reported less than hundred bats killed and they have been running for some 30 years. Realistically the true number could be a thousand times more than this amount.
I will also remind readers that the the truth to all of this bird and bat carnage could be easily settled with 24 hour surveillance. But this presents a huge problem, this industry has millions of skeletons to hide and they will have not any part of it. They would much rather pay big money to shill researches and conservation groups. This has been their business plan for decades sothey can keep selling their monsters. Even so there is a very important point for all communities to remember in all this...... If a permit is given for just one endangered species, many more will end up dying from these turbines. There are no maybes about this. So if any FWS personnel or industry employees do not disclose to communities and planners that many more than one will die, it is clearly attempted fraud. They have what I just stated for years and I have yet to heard this in their impact projections.
The bottom line that everyone needs to remember with these FWS "take permits" is that they are really a license to kill being given to an industry with ZERO accountability. It is for reasons like this that the perception of wind energy is quickly changing across the world from green to swindled. And from the mindset of swindled, it will progress to " let's get these bastards".

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Wind turbines slaughter every species that can fly and because of the wind industry's turbines, we are on a terrible path of species extinction. This is exactly why I am exposing the USFWS for what they are, 100% corrupt. They haven't said one word to the public about this. To the best of my knowledge they went bad in the 1980''s when the turbine slaughter to eagles started and over half of the remaining condors disappeared after thousands of wind turbines went up in the Tehachapi. region. Once the public realizes these guys in Washington (Interior Department) are just sellout corporate shills, then we can get something done to stop the extinction of species from wind turbines.