First-in-the-nation voluntary agreement continues work to protect wildlife and its habitats
HARRISBURG, Pa., April 5, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As Pennsylvania and the nation seek alternative sources of energy, the Pennsylvania Game Commission has released its second report summarizing survey results and other associated activities, through June 30, 2010, which are a product of the voluntary agreements signed by the state's wildlife agency and 30 wind energy companies working in the Commonwealth.
The voluntary agreements between the Game Commission and wind energy companies are a commitment that the companies will strive to avoid, minimize and mitigate impacts on wild birds and mammals by pooling data about impacts and pre- and post-construction monitoring.
"Wind energy development in Pennsylvania and the nation is increasing and, with the creation of the Game Commission's Wind Energy Voluntary Cooperative Agreement, we are learning more about the impacts to wild birds and mammals," said Carl G. Roe, Game Commission executive director. "The major question has been where best to site turbines in relation to important migration routes of birds and bats, as well as critical habitats used by birds and mammals. This report reveals which species are most susceptible to impacts from wind turbines and how much mortality is occurring in Pennsylvania."
Roe noted the information contained in this summary report will enable the Game Commission and wind energy companies to make more informed decisions when siting wind projects, as well as mitigation methods to reduce mortalities.
On April 18, 2007, the first 12 wind energy companies signed the agreement at a public ceremony in the Game Commission's Harrisburg headquarters. Since that time, an additional 18 companies have signed the voluntary agreement, which requires the companies to work with the Game Commission to avoid, minimize and mitigate impacts on wild birds and mammals. The agreement also requires companies to report one year of pre-construction surveys of wild birds and mammals in the project area, as well as two years of post-construction monitoring for mortality of birds and mammals in the project area.
The data made available for this summary report was made possible by pooling information from wind energy companies who signed the Game Commission's Wind Energy Voluntary Cooperative Agreement. To date, the 30 companies who have signed the voluntary agreement are: AES; E.ON Climate & Renewables North America, Inc. (formerly Airtricity, Inc.); Competitive Power Ventures, Inc. (Iberdrola); Energy Unlimited, Inc.; Freedom Wind Energy, LLC; Gamesa Energy USA; Iberdrola Renewable Energies USA; PPM Atlantic Renewable (Iberdrola); ReEnergy, LLC; First Wind (formerly UPC Wind Management, LLC); US Wind Force, LLC; Acconia Wind Energy USA, LLC; Global Winds Harvest, Inc.; Penn Wind; Laurel Hill Wind Energy, LLC; Everpower Renewables; AMP-Ohio/MESA; Lookout Windpower, LLC; Forward Windpower, LLC; BP Alternative Energy; Wind Park Bear Creek, LLC; Invenergy Wind Development, LLC; Tuthill Corporation Dba Blue Mountain Ski Area; PPL Renewable Energy, LLC; New Tech Wind, Inc.; Duke Energy; Apex Wind Energy Holdings, LLC; Allegheny Ridge Wind Farm, LLC; Volkswind USA; and enXco.
"More than 150 wildlife surveys have been conducted by cooperators since 2007," said William Capouillez, Game Commission Bureau of Wildlife Habitat Management director. "These surveys have resulted in better turbine placement to minimize potential impacts, protection of bat roosting locations, abandonment of sites for development and start of the assessment process to further understand the scale of mortality at Pennsylvania wind sites."
Some of the significant findings included in the second summary report are:
- Telemetry surveys conducted on state-listed eastern small-footed bats and the federally- and state-listed Indiana bats yielded new capture locations, roost locations and foraging areas for both species in Pennsylvania. This new information has since been submitted for inclusion into the Pennsylvania Natural Diversity Inventory (PNDI);
- A new hibernaculum containing the federally- and state-listed endangered Indiana bat was documented in 2009;
- The average estimated bat deaths per turbine per year was 24.6 (range 6.8 – 42.7). Hoary bats comprised 30 percent of bat mortality documented at cooperating wind facilities. No threatened or endangered bat mortalities have been documented. However, in 2009, two Seminole bat fatalities were documented at one site during post-construction mortality monitoring surveys. Seminole bats are known to occur in Pennsylvania, but are uncommon;
- The average estimated bird deaths per turbine per year was 3.9 (range 1.7 – 9.8). Passerines accounted for the largest portion of bird mortality at wind sites. Three state-listed endangered bird fatalities occurred in September of 2009, with one being documented at each of three different wind sites. The three endangered birds documented were two blackpoll warblers and one yellow-bellied flycatcher. All three were determined to be migrants and not from the local breeding population given the lack of breeding habitat in the vicinity and the time of year mortalities occurred. The Game Commission currently is working with these cooperators to determine how to best avoid and minimize the occurrences of such events in the future;
- Cooperators did not document any large mortality events (greater than 50 carcasses documented in a single day event);
- Contributions were made to other wind-related studies using specimens collected at the various Pennsylvania wind sites. A total of 1,109 samples (hair and/or tissue) were submitted for use in various ongoing bat genetic studies. The heads of 24 bat were submitted to the Center for Disease Control Rabies Laboratory, Atlanta, Georgia, for a study investigating the prevalence of rabies infection in bats that are struck by wind turbines; wing scores from 830 bats were submitted for use in the study titled White Nose Syndrome: Multi-state Coordination, Investigation and Response to an Emerging Wildlife Health Threat;
- The Game Commission, in cooperation with the Pennsylvania Wind and Wildlife Collaborative and cooperators, drafted best management practices; and
- Research on bat deterrents and curtailment conducted at Cooperator wind sites in the state has shown promise to reduce bat mortality at operational wind sites.
"These are real-world examples of how this voluntary agreement has helped protect wildlife and their habitats, as well as reinforced the conservation goal of wind energy companies," Capouillez said. "In short, the Game Commission's Wind Energy Voluntary Cooperative Agreement is successful and meets with its intended purpose. The Cooperative Agreement has allowed Pennsylvania to become one of the national leaders for determining and addressing wildlife impacts from wind energy development, as well as providing critical data needed to address future wind energy project proposals."
Because of the collaborative effort between the wind industry and Game Commission, Capouillez said that the agreement has and will continue to provide all involved parties with valuable information needed to best manage for wildlife at wind energy sites. Those wind companies that are cooperators have set an example that all should aspire to follow.
"These very cooperators that have proven to be partners in developing conscientious renewable energy with the highest regard to the Commonwealth's wildlife resources," Capouillez said. "However, the primary challenges that remain include encouraging non-cooperators to sign the agreement; improving communication between the Game Commission, developers, and consultants; and ensuring adherence to survey protocols.
"Coupled with the first summary report, this new report summarizes what has been learned so far and discusses future efforts. The format and apparent success of the agency's Wind Energy Voluntary Cooperative Agreement has been praised as a clear example of the ability of wind energy developers and natural resource agencies to partner both on a national and state level."
For a complete copy of the summary report, visit the Game Commission's website (www.pgc.state.pa.us), put your cursor over "Wildlife" in the menu bar at the top of the homepage, then put your cursor over "Habitat Management" in the drop-down menu listing, select "Wind Energy" in the next drop-down menu listing and click on "PGC 2nd Wind Energy Summary Report."
Act 213 of 2004, the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards Act, signed into law on Nov. 30, 2004, requires that 18 percent of the electricity sold to retail customers in Pennsylvania comes from renewable and advanced energy sources within 15 years. One of the technologies that will compete for a substantial share of Pennsylvania's alternative energy market is wind power.
To assist in the development of wind energy in Pennsylvania in an environmentally responsible manner, the Pennsylvania Wind and Wildlife Collaborative was convened, which is a compilation of wind industry developers, natural resource agencies, and varied nongovernmental organizations having a vested interest in wind development in Pennsylvania.
The Game Commission, under the direction of Capouillez, sought to work collaboratively with wind energy developers in order to immediately address the related potential impacts to the Commonwealth's bird and mammal resources, which was the major topic of discussion and concern as noted by the members of the Collaborative. The Game Commission took the lead in addressing the need since wild birds and mammals are directly managed by the agency. The Game Commission and many of the wind energy developers were dedicated to promoting renewable energy initiatives and arriving at uniform guidance, in the absence of comprehensive state regulations, to determine how best to avoid, minimize, and/or potentially mitigate adverse impacts to wildlife resources.
These common goals guided the Game Commission and wind energy developers to begin an intense effort on how to best avoid, minimize, and/or mitigate potential adverse impacts with specific intent to birds and mammals by way of setting in writing a more formal Agreement and protocol. Thus, the voluntary cooperative agreement was developed in an effort to standardize wildlife monitoring protocols and wildlife impact review methods associated with the development of wind energy projects in a mutually beneficial and flexible manner and with high regard to both parties' goals and objectives.
In order to implement the Game Commission's Wind Energy Voluntary Cooperative Agreement, the agency created four limited-term wildlife biologist positions within the Bureau of Wildlife Habitat Management dedicated to wind energy.
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SOURCE Pennsylvania Game Commission