Photo courtesy of Science Notes
A common complaint registered against wind turbines is that they kill too many birds. This has been largely revealed to be a myth, but it turns out that birds’ nocturnal winged counterparts aren’t so lucky. Bats have been dying in surprisingly high numbers around wind turbines, according to recent studies. The culprit seems to be sudden drops in air pressure that create internal hemorrhaging, but the precise cause is still a mystery. To get to the bottom of the strange phenomenon, an equally unlikely research group was formed: the BWEC—the Bats and Wind Energy Cooperative. The group’s initiative is to investigate the precise cause of the deaths and locate potential solutions as soon as possible, and they’ve already made some significant advances.
They’ve found that the most deaths occur on low wind nights, when the blades are spinning slowly, debunking the more obvious notion that bats are getting sucked into rapidly spinning blades and dying grisly deaths. Most deaths occur primarily on ridge tops in the eastern states, for reasons not yet entirely understood. Collisions are evidently a problem as well, though to what extent is also still unclear.
A tentative solution may be to shut down turbines on low wind nights, when the electricity yield would be low anyway. Perhaps an answer as simple as that will allow for continued widespread support wind of farms while sufficiently protecting bats.