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

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