A West Virginia wind farm that I wrote about last month because of its battery installation was the site of a big bird kill in October, according to a consultant’s report for the Fish and Wildlife Service.
But it wasn’t the blades of the wind machines that killed the birds, according to the consultant. Rather, they seem to have been drawn to lights around storage batteries and an associated electrical substation.
The Laurel Mountain wind farm, near the town of Elkins, has 1.3 million batteries and electronic components that convert the wind power from direct current to alternating current and back again so the electricity can be put on the grid. The batteries and the electronic equipment are housed in 24 large containers on a gravel pad surrounded by five utility poles, each with a 250-watt floodlight on it.
A wildlife biologist based in Topsham, Me., with the consulting service Stantec reported that his firm’s field inspectors had found 314 dead birds near the wind farm during an inspection on Oct. 3. “Carcasses appeared very fresh, with mortality likely occurring on the previous one to three nights,” the report said. No dead birds were found near the wind machines themselves.
The birds were migrating in conditions of high winds and fog, with a low cloud ceiling. “These conditions would likely have caused nocturnal migrants to fly closer to the ground, where they could have been attracted to the night lighting at the substation facility,” the report said. The birds “either collided with structures at the substation or circled to the point of exhaustion,” it said.
Between Oct. 3 and Oct. 18, searchers found 484 carcasses, which were analyzed by biologists. Blackpoll warblers made up 65 percent, and ovenbirds, 7.5 percent. Twenty-eight other species were found, including thrushes, cuckoos and one green heron. Nine birds were listed as unknown.
The American Bird Conservancy said this was the third such incident in West Virginia, and it suggested that the solution was to turn off the lights. In fact, that is what technicians at the site did after discovering the dead birds.
“This is the largest bird kill at a U.S. wind facility that I’m aware of,”’ Kelly Fuller, the wind campaign coordinator at the conservancy, said in an e-mail. She emphasized that the wind turbines themselves were not involved.
“It appears lighting at the battery storage facility was the culprit,” she said. “It’s going to be very important as battery storage goes forward that this lesson is learned and doesn’t happen at other facilities.”
The New York Times