Photo: Jennifer Tomaloff (Flickr)
Fowler Ridge Wind Farm officials say they are creating a plan to keep more bats from being injured.
Workers at the wind farm near Lafayette found a dead endangered Indiana bat near their turbines in 2009. The next year the wind farm’s operator BP Wind Energy hired a company to conduct additional studies and found a total of 809 dead bats, including another Indiana bat.
“It was really not expected that we would encounter bat, Indiana bat mortality there,” says U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokesperson Georgia Parham.
She says bat deaths at this particular site are surprising because the animals are found more often in the southern part of the state.
But steps are being taken to minimize endangered bat mortality. BP Wind Energy officials say they plan to position the blades of the wind turbines so they move slowly or stop at night during times with low wind.
As more wind farms are built in Indiana, Parham says the Fish and Wildlife Service is trying to work with other wind farm operators to create similar plans that will reduce bat deaths.
“We think this is a really workable way to deal with bat mortality,” she says. “We’re hoping that this type of activity is looked at by other wind developers as a viable tool to avoid take and save bats and still provide energy needs.”
Still, Fowler Ridge Wind Farm is also taking action to protect itself in case more bats are killed.
Killing an endangered species is a federal offense, so BP Wind Energy is requesting a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service allowing 193 incidental Indiana bat deaths over 22 years.
The company’s Director of Government and Public Affairs Amanda Abbott says the company plans to implement the changes as soon as the permit is approved. She would not say how much the move will cost the company.
The draft plan and environmental assessment for Fowler Ridge Wind Farm are posted online in the Federal Register. The Fish and Wildlife Service will accept public comments until June 4 and the permit is expected to be issued before the end of the year.