Besides the challenges of integrating variable wind power into an electrical grid built with fossil fuel plants in mind, wind farms also must clear the hurdle of showing that their turbines don’t pose a danger to wildlife. The latter issue has now thrown a wrench into the construction of a $300 million West Virginia wind farm, after a judge ruled it would threaten endangered bats.
U.S. District Judge Roger W. Titus ruled that Chicago-based Invenergy can complete 40 windmills it has begun to install on an Appalachian ridge in Greenbrier County. But he said the company cannot move forward on the $300 million project — slated to have 122 turbines along a 23-mile stretch — without a special permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service [Washington Post].
The bat in question is the Indiana bat, a creature with an eight-inch wingspan that has dwindled to half the population it had when it first came under Endangered Species Act classification in 1967. Judge Titus ruled that the current turbines could only operate during the bats’ hibernation season that spans from November to March. This is the first time a court has found a wind project violates federal environmental law. “The development of wind energy can and should be encouraged, but wind turbines must be good neighbors,” the court ruled [GreentechMedia.com].
The Washington Post calls this “a rare green vs. green court case,” but these kinds of fights are showing up more regularly. Disputes over tortoises, foxes, other animals and plants have also slowed the permitting of renewable energy in the U.S. West [Forbes]. It’s also another example of the legal complexity of large new projects: In this case, a judge in Maryland decided to protect Indiana bats against West Virginia windmills.
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Image: flickr/ rg250871