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Wind Energy and Bats

September 18, 2010 in Wind Energy

At the zoo there is a lady I know who cares a lot about bats, she pretty much knows everything one needs to know about them. Some time last year at one of our gatherings she was talking about bats being killed by the wind turbines. She said hundreds of bats were dying around wind turbines in the midwest, so it set me searching to find what was going on.

Some Interesting Bat Facts

Bats are an essential part of our environment, they keep pests in check and are also pollinators for many plantsĀ  and trees.

Their names have been maligned by misinformation and myth over centuries.

Of the 1100 species of bats only 3 species of bats feed on blood or are vampires, which do not suck blood but make a cut and lick blood. All 3 are found in South America only.

Bats are mammals.

Bats do use echolocation to fly during the night, but unlike most people believe they do have excellent eye sight.

Most migratory bats are solitary.

Most bat species eat insects, while many tropical species feed exclusively on fruit or nectar.

Bats are, for their size, the slowest reproducing mammals on earth. On average, mother bats rear only one young per year, and some do not give birth until they are two or more years old.

Bats can live up to 40+ years!

Bats have inspired characters from Villains to Superheros! Dracula to bat man :-)

Wind Turbines and Bats

I came across two articles on the subject the earlier one from 2008 on discovery.com spoke about how wind turbines were killing bats without hitting them and the other in the National geographic from yesterday was tilted Hope for stemming wind energy’s toll on bats.

The article says that a study conducted had come to the conclusion that most of the bats flew into the low pressure area behind the will turbines which resulted in their little lungs rupturing and causing their deaths, some died by being hit by the turbine tips. The annual bat fatality in West Virginia alone is estimated to be between 1500-4000 bats. Nationally the numbers are much larger. Bats being nocturnal and so tiny, are difficult to keep track of. Before them dying under the wind turbines no one really saw them unless they went looking for them.

Most of the impacted bats are migratory bats which some how seem to drawn to the wind turbines at night. Bat experts have been working for a solution to this problem and some have suggested an ultrasonic sound to be added to the wind turbines (no one is sure about the long term effects of ultrasonic sounds on bats and other wildlife).

Ed Arnett director of Bat Conservation International suggests that wind turbines be turned off when the bats are most active i.e. night. They have been working with a wind energy producer and have seen bat deaths drop by 20-50% as a result. Another solution could be to increase the minimum wind speed needed to set the blades in motion. Most bats are more active in low wind.

As the concern over the high number of bat deaths increased it led to the formation of The Bats and Wind Energy Cooperative (BWEC) in 2003 by Bat Conservation International (BCI), the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory of the US Department of Energy (NREL).

Hopefully something will be done to safe guard the bats right to fly as it has for generations. It is frustrating when we seem to ignore an issue that stares at us just because it does not have a pretty face or loud enough voice.

Sources :

National Geographic Article

Discovery.com Article

New Scientist

Bat Conservation International