Wind turbines on ridgelines is madness (W. Va.)

Nov 4, 2011


Laurel Mountain Wind Project Bird Kill

—Laura Jackson, President, Save Our Allegheny Ridges.

The massive bird kill at the Laurel Mountain wind facility near Elkins, West Virginia in early October is another example of tragic environmental consequences caused by industrial wind development.

Laurel Mountain windplant, W. Va.

The American Bird Conservancy reported on October 28, 2011 that almost 500 birds were “reportedly killed after lights were left on at an electrical substation.”  That report was confirmed when Stantec Consulting Services Inc. reported to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that 8, 250-watt high pressure sodium lamps were left on at the Battery Energy Storage System at the Leadsville substation, part of the AES Laurel Mountain wind facility.

Laurel Mountain windplant, W. Va.

AES staff found a significant number of dead birds on October 3, 2011 that appeared to be fresh kills. The weather over the weekend of October 1 and 2 was poor—high winds, low clouds, thick fog, and cold temperatures.

Leadsville substation, Laurel Mountain windplant

The Leadsville substation was built as part of the wind project, and is located at a high elevation in a largely forested area. It is presumed that low visibility weather conditions kept the migrating birds flying low over the ridge. When they encountered the lighted substation, it’s theorized they became disoriented and flew into the substation structures, which caused mortality.

Blackpoll warbler fall migration route

According to the Stantec report, a total of 484 dead birds were collected at the substation during searches between October 3 and 18, 2011. Searchers found 310 dead blackpoll warblers and over a dozen other different species of warblers. A sora, ruffed grouse, Virginia rail, and pied-billed grebe were also killed, as well as 9 unidentified birds.

Blackpoll warbler, spring plumage (With thanks to Bryan Pfeiffer, Wings Photography)

484 dead birds

(Fortunately, no bat carcasses were found, and no multiple-fatality events caused by turbines were reported.)

Three issues need to be understood: The first deals with negligence on the part of the Laurel Mountain wind project personnel. Kerlinger and Curry documented a multiple-fatality event of 33 birds at the Mountaineer wind project in 2003 and stated that lights should never be left on at night.  (Click here for their report.)  Other biologists have reported on bird kills caused by low visibility, high elevations, and lighting.

The Laurel Mountain wind developer should admit that this bird kill was due to gross negligence and should pay a substantial fine. A substantial fine would send a message to other developers that negligence is costly to both birds and wind companies.

The second issue deals with mountain top development—be it caused by industrial wind, coal mining, or drilling for Marcellus shale gas. Our forested ridges in the northeast are important migratory routes for thousands of birds and bats both spring and fall. Industrial development should not be permitted on the migratory ridges. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) recognizes this, but has not developed any mandatory regulations to protect our forested ridges. Voluntary guidelines do not offer any substantial protection and should be replaced with enforced regulations.

The third issue is one of monitoring and reporting. AES staff found significant numbers of dead birds on October 3, 2011, and reported their find to Stantec staff, who reported the mortality to West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (DNR) and to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) by telephone on the afternoon of October 3. There is a long history of wind developers hiding data behind claims of “proprietary information” and refusing to divulge facts to the public.  Fortunately, this was not the case at the Laurel Mountain substation, since the USFWS has released Stantec’s report. We have asked the USFWS to report the details of this event on their website, in a similar manner to the announcement that an Indiana bat was killed recently at the North Allegheny wind project in Pennsylvania.

Low cloud cover and fog are common events on our mountains and were not problems for migrating birds and bats until human development transformed our forested mountains into industrial development areas. It is clear that lighting should be regulated, so tragedies like the Laurel Mountain bird kill do not occur again.

  1. Comment by Preston McClanahan on 11/05/2011 at 10:08 am

    This tradegy, in my homeland of the West Virginia hills, is a prefiguration of what will happen in my adopted home in the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts if the madness is allowed to go on.

  2. Comment by Marsh Rosenthal on 11/05/2011 at 11:21 am

    Whether it’s birds, bats, or humans, we are all precious in the sight of our Creator. NO ONE has the right to deprive the living creatures of this Earth the life they never gave them. NO ONE. There is no such thing as a “greater good” when one class deems another less worthy to exist. This is the belief that is hardwired between my heart and my brain. These are the thoughts that guide me each day.

    Thou shall not destroy the lives of your neighbors with your latest technology. Thou shall not kill.

    Whether it is in Falmouth, MA, West Virginia, Berkshire county, MA, the Midwest, California, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Great Britain, Germany, Denmark, Holland, China, New Zealand or Australia, the encroachment upon the lives of residents has made them into helpless victims.

    This nazification of the world must stop NOW!

    We are the ones who must do this because we are the ones who know these things.

  3. Comment by Mike on 11/05/2011 at 6:35 pm

    Those ridges sure were pretty. What a waste of . . . everything!

  4. Comment by Melodie Burkett (Ontario, Canada) on 11/06/2011 at 5:17 am

    Editor’s comment: In order to understand the context of this worthwhile Comment, you must first read this article.

    Well, hi folks! You made us all proud to be a part of the 2nd Open House by wpd (a German wind energy company operating in Canada) in Fergus, Ontario. The sea of green T shirts was awesome! That was a brilliant strategy! I came from Clearview (Ontario) to support you but also because wpd is ruining our lives over here in Clearview.

    I got in a bit of a tiff with ‘Jutta the Hun’ as well. She is a joke and we need not give her anymore publicity by even mentioning her name. She tried to film me with out my permission and I told her I would sue her 6 ways from Sunday if she did not erase it—and I will!
    Jutta Splettstoesser is an Ontario resident who has gained notoriety throughout the province for her vigorous and highly visible support of wind energy—Editor
    I had a nice long chat with Ian McCrea and Mr. Hess as well. I told them that I have had enough of their control of my life and was going to take my life back.

    This is a war, no matter how you slice the pie, there is no way around it. War is ugly and hideous. It is not what any of us would choose. However, there comes a time when all that you hold dear is threatened by tyranny—that we have to search our souls and ask what the future of our province is worth to us.

    I told them that I am an older lady and that I have tried everything in my power to stop them from destroying my home and rural way of life. They made the decision to industrialize families in their beds! They made the decision to slaughter the wildlife that we all love so much. I have made a decision to fight to protect my rights under the Canadian Charter: “The right to peaceable enjoyment of my home.”

    I am old and have nothing to lose! I cannot let this moment in history pass by, remaining passive against a dictatorship. I can not spit on the graves of the brave men and women that sacrificed their lives in 1812, in 1917 or in 1939, so that I could grow up in a world of freedom and peace. I owe allegiance to the Maple Leaf that has proudly protected us from the assault to our land that is taking place now by foreign corporate greed. (Editor’s note: wpd is a German company. Most of the wind energy companies operating in Ontario are foreign-owned and managed.) We can no longer betray that best friend, our Maple Leaf.

    We must make a stand and run these parasites out of Ontario. And since our spineless politicians will not listen to us, we have been backed against the wall. Well, sir, I say to you, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”
    angry woman

  5. Comment by Melodie Burkett on 11/06/2011 at 11:49 am

    Thank you for adding pic’s Calvin. The man standing beside Jutta above is Mr. Brad Duguid ( we call him Brad Donogood ) . He WAS the minister of Energy! Not now! Not after Rural Ontario had their say in our elections on October 6th! He is a weasel and we are well rid of him. I asked him, in person at a political gala last August, how he could justify PAYING other jurisdictions to take our richly paid for excess power and he said that ” It all works out as sometimes WE are paid to take excess power from other jurisdictions. Well this ain’t happened to date! How do these people get through university?

  6. Comment by Jim on 09/04/2012 at 5:01 am

    I just flew a lightplane over this site a few days ago. The combination of immense size and frequently occurring low cloud cover in this locale makes it just a matter of time before one of them snares an airplane.

    Interestingly, not a single windmill was spinning.

    Look, no offense, but people are getting really fed up with the Greenies: you wanted these “wind farms,” and now that you have them, you piss and moan about the birdkill. Make up your minds, will you? Fact is that all these turbines—when they DO spin—don’t generate enough power to be worth a tinker’s damn. (And of course, when there is a storm, they have to be shut down.)

    Perhaps engineers ought to be consulted instead of consulting the politicians. And perhaps the “environmentalists”—whatever that is—ought take some courses with a little math in them. Just a thought.

  7. Comment by Jim Wiegand on 08/04/2013 at 4:48 pm

    I am familiar with Stantec and have read over their wind industry mortality reports and surveys/studies. Based upon what I have read I want to go on the record and say that I would not even hire these guys to run a lemonade stand much less put the fate of protected species in their hands. Because I have seen an inability to conduct proper methodology and analysis in their studies, I want everyone to know that their “opinion” about the bird kill at Laurel Mountain Wind Project should be dismissed. I have found their studies to be biased, severely flawed, and nothing close to being scientific. Their grossly inaccurate studies also make it easier for wind projects to get approved, thus allowing the excess killing protected species from wind turbines. It is my opinion that tens of thousands more bird and bats are being killed at Wolfe Island than what is being reported.

    Stantec conducted post construction mortality studies for this wind farm.


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