They are less than 2 inches long and weigh one quarter of an ounce, but they have halted the development of a large wind farm in Greenbrier County, West Virginia.
On December 8, federal district court Judge Roger Titus ruled that Beech Ridge Energy, a subsidiary of Invenergy Wind, had failed to obtain a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that would set up conditions to protect Indiana bats from the huge turbines. The tiny bats are an endangered species and, under the Endangered Species Act, no can "take any species within the United States." The ESA defines the term "take" as "to harass, harm, pursue, hunt,
shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct."
The court held that the project, which planned to construct 120 wind turbines on the site, was "certain to imminently harm, kill, or wound Indiana bats." The court said Beech Ridge Energy could complete 40 turbines already under construction, but could only operate them from November 16 to March 31, when the bats are in hibernation.
Judge Titus stated, "The development of wind energy can and should be encouraged, but wind turbines must be good neighbors." He said Beech Ridge Energy must apply for an "incidental take permit," which would include development of a Habitat Conservation Plan, in order for the court to allow construction to proceed.
The Beech Ridge Energy projects was scheduled to go online in March 2010, and to produce 186 megawatts of electricity.