Bats and Wind Farms

by updated 2011/04/02

Brown Bats

Some bat populations are on the verge of elimination because of a mysterious fungal infection known as “White Nose Syndrome”.  This is a problem first noticed in 2006 in a cave in New York State. It has since spread far and wide, threatening bats over a large part of North America.  I have read many articles on this over the yearsand the consensus still seems to be that bats are in serious trouble and there is still no possibility of a solution.  Bats are a critical link in many ecosystems; they not only control many insect populations, but also pollinate many agricultural crops.  Now I read about another damaging blow to bat populations, wind turbines.

This also is not a new problem, having been first noticed a few years ago, but I did not realize how significant it is to already stressed bat populations.  The obvious hazard to bats is being hit by the spinning blades, but there is another more interesting danger that appears to kill even the bats that manage to avoid being hit.  Researchers studying the corpses of bats collected below wind turbines noticed that about 1/2 of the bats had no evidence of being hit.  When these bats were examined it was found that they died from internal hemorrhaging caused by a drop in air pressure in the vicinity of the spinning turbines.

This is another unfortunate blow to already endangered bat populations and a perfect example of The Law of Unintended Consequences. We obviously need to increase our percentage of renewable energy, but in doing so unavoidably create other issues not easily solved.  In this case I guess wind turbines can be located in areas without bat population.  But doing that might make wind energy even more expensive buy requiring an even more complex distribution network to get the electricity from the wind farms to the population centers.

Will Sig
1 Alan

How interesting. Mostly when you think of wind farms you think “green and good”. Always a price to pay, eh?
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2 John Hunter

My hope is we can find ways to make wind turbines safer for bats and birds. Wind energy have many things going for it, I believe we can find solutions to the drawback is we try. Luckily alternatives are likely to keep increasing in price (fossil fuels themselves and likely some sort of way to add in negative externalities costs to those solutions) so that wind energy can add costs to reduce drawbacks and still be plenty competitive. I believe solar will also continue to grow.
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3 Binky

I’ve never heard about the wind pressure thing. Is this an effect peculiar to bats, or does it affect other birds and animals? And what about people? I like the idea of wind power, but it does serve a reminder that everything has its costs, and they all need to be assessed and accounted fore in order to determine the best way to supply our energy needs. Conservation is probably the best solution, but of course it only goes so far.
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4 Will

I did not come across anything indicating it was a problem for other creatures, us included. It sort of makes sense. I have held a few bats and they are incredibly fragile creatures.

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5 Tony McGurk

Gosh I wouldnt have thought bats would be endangered by the wind turbines. I assumed their radar senses would’ve warned them. Interesting about the air pressure change problem for them. Poor things. Sometimes things that have seeming benefits can still bring unexpected consequences. I always wondered if they were a problem for birds but never thought of other flying creatures being affected.
The white nose syndrome makes me think of the Tasmanian Devil Facial Tumor disease that is running rampant through our Devil population here & putting their survival as a species at risk too.
http://www.dpiw.tas.gov.au/inter.nsf/webpages/lbun-5qf86g

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6 Will

Wow Tony, that is a terrible disease. And cancer that is contagious. Very scary. Where do the Tasmanian Devils fir in the ecosystem? What do they eat, etc. The thing about declining bat populations is that it will cause problems for us humans since they are important insect controllers and plant pollinators.

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7 Alan

Unfortunately, bat are not the only pollinators in trouble. I’m sure you are familiar with the problems with bees dying off in colony collapse disorder. I reviewed a book about that issue.
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8 Tony McGurk

Devils are the Funeral Directors of the Tasmanian forests. They clean up dead critters. Eating roadkill at night also puts them at risk of being hit by cars too

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9 Tony

Devils are the Funeral Directors of the Tasmanian forests. They clean up dead critters. Eating roadkill at night also puts them at risk of being hit by cars too

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10 Tony

Gosh I wouldnt have thought bats would be endangered by the wind turbines. I assumed their radar senses would’ve warned them. Interesting about the air pressure change problem for them. Poor things. Sometimes things that have seeming benefits can still bring unexpected consequences. I always wondered if they were a problem for birds but never thought of other flying creatures being affected.
The white nose syndrome makes me think of the Tasmanian Devil Facial Tumor disease that is running rampant through our Devil population here & putting their survival as a species at risk too.
http://www.dpiw.tas.gov.au/inter.nsf/webpages/lbun-5qf86g

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11 Tony McGurk

Oh I just noticed my autofill for the comments form url field is still my old url. fixed now

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12 Tony

Oh I just noticed my autofill for the comments form url field is still my old url. fixed now
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13 Anonymous

With all the talk of global warming and carbon footprints, why isn’t any attempt being made to control the worlds population? The United States now has 300 million people and it’s expected to grow to 500 million within a few years.

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14 Hillary

That is really odd. you would think with their ability to navigate via soundwaves and vibrations that they would know not to go in those areas.
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15 Kerry-Ann

Poor bats, the government definitely has to look into placing these wind turbines in a safer place for bats, even if it’s a bit more expensive. I’m surprised animal activist groups haven’t been making an up roar about this issue.

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16 BIAP

The white nose syndrom is caused by a fungi, which is called Geomyces destructans which was described new to science in 2009.
More information you will find here: http://botit.botany.wisc.edu/toms_fungi/may2009.html .
Wind turbines are in Germany a big problem too, especially for bat species, which fly at higher elevation like species of Nyctalus or Eptesicus.

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