With Halloween coming, you may be thinking of bats, so this post is about the impacts of wind farms on bats. Bats are affected significantly by wind turbines and many are found dead within wind farms. There are two main causes for bat fatalities and they are collision with the turbines (similar to birds) and barotrauma, which is when body tissue is harmed because of a very fast or very large change in air pressure. It’s kind of like when you’re in the plane and your ears feel blocked and you pop them but way worse for bats.
Bats are found to move towards wind turbines and one possible reason is that turbines look kind of like trees. A large proportion of bats which roost in trees and migrate were found dead in wind farms, which supports this hypothesis. This study found that bats tend are less likely to move towards wind turbines if the blades are spinning quickly and if the wind speed is high. This means that bats are more likely to hit the turbines at low wind speed, so raising the speed at which turbines start generating electricity could help to reduce the number of bat deaths. Turbine blades can also spin even if they aren’t generating energy, so it was found fewer bats died if the blades could be prevented from rotating at very low wind speeds. However, that could be a problem if we want to get as much use of the wind as possible, as lower cut-in speeds would help to increase the clean energy that we could get. On the other hand, since bats are an important part of ecosystems, we shouldn’t treat their deaths at the hands (blades?) of wind turbines lightly. After all, energy which harms animals isn’t clean.
The other reason for bat fatalities is barotrauma, where the bats can get serious internal injuries, especially in their respiratory system, if they fly near the spinning turbine blades. The anatomy of bats causes them to be extra vulnerable to the changes in air pressure, which results in barotrauma being responsible for many bat deaths in wind farms. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find solutions to prevent bats from flying near the blades so this is a big problem. I wonder if building a sort of fence/ cage around a turbine could prevent bats from being near to the turbines without affecting wind collected? Or would bats just fly into the cage and get hurt anyway if they cannot detect the cage? Hopefully, researchers will be able to figure out exactly why bats are attracted to wind turbines and find a way to stop it.
I hope this post has highlighted the dangers that wind farms pose to bats and that maybe someone will be able to figure out a better solution to prevent more bats from dying without affecting our green energy generation.
See you next week!