Wind farms in rural West Virginia and Pennsylvania slay hundreds of bats

By Gretchen Randall
for ecologic Powerhouse

January 15, 2005

Researchers have found that the blades of wind powered electric power generating plants are killing hundreds, if not thousands of bats. On Backbone Mountain in West Virginia, it's estimated the project's 44 turbines killed between 1,400 and 4,000 bats in 2004. At both the West Virginia site and another in Pennsylvania, a large number of bat carcasses have been found.

The wind turbines at these sites are 340 feet above ground, and built in a cleared mountaintop area. This has led researchers to speculate that the bats are attracted to the cleared area where they can more easily find insects. But, they do not know whether the bats' sonar doesn't detect the spinning turbine blades, or if the spinning blades attract the bats.

In any case, there is debate about whether future wind projects should proceed. Wind energy provides less than one percent of the country's electricity, but Congress reinstated a federal tax break for alternative energy sources, so companies are anxious to build more wind turbines while the tax break is in effect. Environmental groups differ on whether companies should delay building the proposed 700 new turbines in the East until ways are found to deter bats from hitting the blades, or whether bats are expendable in achieving more clean energy production.

Comment 1: Dan Boone, conservation chair for the Maryland chapter of the Sierra Club, told the Washington Post, "We have an industry targeting that area, and it's not doing it sensibly. We're blowing the promise of wind as a good, renewable energy source."

Comment 2: Wind farms are unsightly. Ted Kennedy and John Kerry didn't want to look at wind turbines from their homes on Nantucket Island. We also found turbines kill birds, and now bats are being killed by the turbines. Not exactly a clean, friendly alternative energy source.

Comment 3: So-called environmental groups are willing to sacrifice insect-eating bats to the turbines, if it'll mean more wind energy. So much for protecting species.



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