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Wind company to make changes to save endangered bat

David Sommerstein
A proposed wind farm in Copenhagen will adjust its turbine's speed to minimize deaths of bats.

Wind farms have been popping up in rural areas of Northern New York. Wind energy  doesn't burn fossil fuels or emit greenhouse gases.  But while wind farms  may be a positive step for the environment in one way, they also can kill birds and bats.  Now, the company behind a wind farm in Copenhagen is working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to determine how to prevent deaths of these winged creatures before they occur.

The collaboration between OWNenergy and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service started when the energy company said they were planning to install a bunch of wind turbines on the turf of the Indiana bat. This tiny bat has been on the endangered species list since 1967.

Recently, the deadly bat disease White-nose syndrome shot down any chance the population would make a recovery. It's technically illegal to kill an endangered animal. So, OwnEnergy was required by law to come up with a conservation plan.  

“Bats can be injured by direct contact with turbines as they’re flying and they can also have internal hemorrhaging called barotrauma that happens when the pressure drops right in the area of the wind turbines,” said Meagan Racey, a spokesperson with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Construction on the wind farm won't start till next year, but the company is already in the first stages of figuring out what they’ll need to do to minimize how many bats die.

“Less than one bat per year is really what we are talking about,” said P.J. Saliterman of OwnEnergy.

Saliterman  says so far the ideas floating around for how to save bats include slowing or shutting down turbines when bats are feeding at dusk and in the fall when they’re migrating.

Meagan Racey says the Indiana bat isn’t the only  wildlife that will benefit from these adjustments.

“But also other bat species like big brown bats, little brown bats, eastern red bats and other species,” said Racey.

The wind farm in Copenhagen will have close to 50 turbines. OwnEnergy plans to have it up and running by fall of next year.