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In Green vs. Green battle, the bats win

In a court fight that pitted wind energy against endangered bats, the bats won.

A federal judge in Maryland has halted expansion of the Beech Ridge Wind Farm in West Virginia, ruling the massive turbines are likely to kill endangered Indiana bats. It was the first court challenge to wind power under the Endangered Species Act.

"The development of wind energy can and should be encouraged, but wind turbines must be good neighbors," Judge Roger W. Titus wrote in a 71-page opinion in Animal Welfare Institute v. Beech Ridge Energy.

Indiana bats, brownish-gray creatures that weigh about as much as three pennies, hibernate in caves with several miles of the wind farm in Greenbriar County. A 2005 estimate concluded there were about 457,000 of them, half the number in 1967, when they were first listed as endangered.

Titus said Chicago-based Invenergy, a company that produces "green" energy, must seek an "incidental take permit" with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service if it wants to complete the planned 122-turbine project. If the permit is approved, it would include conditions to mitigate harm to the bats. For instance, it could restrict the times turbines run to avoid the migration season.

Titus said he will allow the company to complete construction of 40 windmills it has begun to install on an Appalachian ridge. Until an incidental take permit is granted, however, those turbines can operate only in the winter when the bats are hibernating.

Titus opened his opinion with this quote from "Scientific Progress Goes 'Boink:' A Calvin and Hobbes Collection."

Calvin: My report is on bats. . . . Ahem . . . “Dusk! With a creepy, tingling
sensation, you hear the fluttering of leathery wings! Bats! With glowing
red eyes and glistening fangs, these unspeakable giant bugs drop onto . . ."
-- Maria Glod

By Maria Glod  |  December 9, 2009; 12:25 PM ET
Categories:  From the Courthouse , Maria Glod  
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Comments

The environmental industry came up with the concept of "carbon credits" which industrial companies could purchase to help off-set their polluting ways. Maybe the same concept could be extended to the wind industry? Yeah, like they could set out little plates of food for the bats to help them through the winter, or sew them little jammies to stay warm? Awesome concept . . .

Posted by: Crimewatch2000 | December 9, 2009 1:29 PM | Report abuse

This move is ridiculous. Years ago a scientist was able to allow bats the freedom to fly around in his laboratory! He learned that the bats through the use of their navigational skills and radar were able to fly through the blades of an electric fan with the fan guard removed, and the fan switched on to its highest RPMs and the bats were never harmed. His experiment was published in scientific publications. Too bad this judge hasn't heard of this experiment! Besides this the blades of these generators would be turning so slow that even the slowest of the bird population could easily fly through the blades when they are rotating.

Posted by: imposter | December 9, 2009 1:30 PM | Report abuse

Imposter wrote: "Besides this the blades of these generators would be turning so slow that even the slowest of the bird population could easily fly through the blades when they are rotating"

Unfortunately, you're mistaken in your assumptions. The proof is in the piles of dead birds and bats that accumulate at the bases during active seasons & migrations. These wind turbines can have a severe impact on migrating birds, which often fly at night and can become disoriented by the lights and whacked by the blades in the dark, as well as the bats which can't use their echo-locating on such a huge scale. They can "see" fine-scale things like fan blades and bugs, but not blades that are three or four times the size of a large tree trunk. It's also easy to underestimate the speed with which these blades move. They look so slow from afar, but the tips of the blades are racing extremely fast.

Posted by: Menidia | December 9, 2009 1:56 PM | Report abuse

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