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United States

Virginia project must monitor birds and bats daily

Bats and birds continue to loom large over wind power prospects in Virginia. The State Corporation Commission has granted a permit to Highland New Wind Development (HNWD) for a $60 million, 39 MW project near the West Virginia border in an area known as a haven for endangered bat species, as well as bald and golden eagles. But the permit is qualified by strict requirements that involve daily monitoring for bat and bird mortality. "If the threshold is exceeded, then mitigation will kick in, which basically means curtailment of the functioning of the turbines during high-risk periods of the year," says Rick Webb, a University of Virginia scientist and staunch project opponent. "But the real issue is that Highland New Wind failed to provide the information requested by the reviewing agencies." HNWD is confident it can line up turbines and financing in time to finish its project before wind's federal production credit expires at year's end. The company hopes to find 3 MW turbines in the secondary market from a developer that may have 13 of them on order in excess to requirements. "There will always be hurdles," says Frank Maisanok speaking for HNWD. "Financing is one but we think there's a long line of people who are interested in this project because it can be built this year. And we have a transmission line that comes right through the property. But we'll also make sure that the environmental conditions are upheld." Webb remains sceptical and laments that enforcement of the US Endangered Species Act kicks in only after violations have occurred. "This project is serving as a poster boy for bad wind project ideas in the Appalachian region," Webb says. "We're off to a bad start in Virginia."

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