Pennsylvania wind farm stops working nights to protect bats

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 18, 2011 7:03 PM

PITTSBURGH (Reuters) - A Pennsylvania wind farm has stopped operating at night after the carcass of an endangered bat was found at the site last month, a spokesman for the wind farm's owner said on Tuesday.

The carcass of the Indiana bat was discovered on September 26 at the North Allegheny Windpower Project, which includes 35 turbines straddling two counties, said Greg Efthimiou, a spokesman for North Carolina-based Duke Energy.

The company summoned an expert who confirmed the animal found was an Indiana bat and contacted wildlife officials as part of a voluntary environmental monitoring program, he said.

Duke Energy stopped operating the wind farm at night "to prevent additional mortalities of Indiana bats," Efthimiou said.

Indiana bats, found in the eastern United States, have been listed as endangered since 1967 and continue to be threatened by hibernation site disturbance by people, loss of summer habitat and a bat disease, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The company is working with the Fish and Wildlife Service and the state Game Commission to find ways to reduce the risk to the bats in keeping with the federal Endangered Species Act, the service said in a statement.

It remained unclear when the wind farm may resume nightly operation of the turbines, but the company was taking into consideration the migratory season of the bats, which ends in mid-November when the bats go into hibernation, Efthimiou said.

The 70-megawatt wind farm in Western Pennsylvania was built by Gamesa Energy USA and began operating in September 2009. It was acquired earlier that year by Duke Energy Renewables, a Duke Energy subsidiary.

(Reporting by Daniel Lovering, editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Cynthia Johnston)