Researchers probe how to limit bats’ fatal encounters with wind turbines

RResearchers are collecting government-funded grants to study how to ensure wind turbines and bats can coexist as the renewable energy source becomes more important.

Wind is the most important source of renewable electricity in the United States, and the Biden administration wants to deploy much more of it, including 30 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030. But wind farms can come at a cost to wildlife that is displaced or collided by installations with turbines as they spin, making mitigation an important balancing interest for the industry.


For onshore wind, the effects on bird species are fairly well documented, as are bats. A review of research published in the fall of 2019 found that 22 of the 47 species of bats found in the continental US were recorded as fatalities in wind turbines, and an estimated 600,000 to 888,000 bats died from collisions with land-based wind turbines in 2012.

Less is known about how bats will interact with the relatively young offshore wind sector, said Christian Newman, wildlife biologist and manager of the Endangered and Protected Species program at the Electric Power Resource Institute.

EPRI, a nonprofit energy research and development group, just received a $1.6 million grant from the Department of Energy’s Office of Wind Energy Technologies and the Office of Ocean Energy Management to study what environmental conditions are likely to encourage bat activity in potential offshore wind areas get dressed in the pacific ocean.

“Bats fly at night. People don’t think about them much,” Newman said Washington Examiner. But they are vital to the ecosystem, particularly for pest control, he mused.

Read  Biden ramps up pressure on TikTok with latest demand

For its west coast project, the EPRI team will use the funds to deploy acoustic bat detectors designed to capture bat-generated echolocated frequencies at various structures along the coast to record activity. The detectors will be placed on land, boats, buoys and possibly drones.

Dominion Wind

One of two turbines installed as part of Dominion Energy’s Coastal Virginia commercial offshore wind project

Graem Jennings

Newman, who will serve as the project’s lead researcher, said the aim is to produce very “basic information” to inform government and industry about wildlife activities. He emphasized that it has yet to be determined whether bats go to sea at all, but researchers have reason to believe that they do and that bats are attracted to offshore wind farms based on observations of land-based facilities that, according to a increased bat activity and deaths were observed given project was deployed, but not before.

“As the offshore wind industry takes off, the key questions to answer are trying to get a better understanding of if, where and when bats migrate to the ocean,” Newman said.


Other recently awarded research projects will study wind and bats at facilities from Maine to Texas.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory awarded Bowman, a Vermont-based engineering services firm, a grant in June to study how bats behave around wind turbines in Minnesota compared to those in Texas.

EPRI also received a portion of NREL funding to set up a shop at an Iowa wind energy site to study “whether bats prefer the calmer air just behind wind turbines or the turbulent air surrounding them.”

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button