Monday, 11 July 2016

Bats take dangerous flight into the wind farm

Date: July 8, 2016
Source: Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V. (FVB)

Wind turbines attract bats. They seem to appear particularly appealing to female noctule bats in early summer. In a pilot study, researchers of the German Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin noticed this when they tracked the flight paths of noctule bats, Nyctalus noctula, using the latest GPS tracking devices. The bats managed to take even seasoned experts by surprise.

The motive behind the study is the conflict between the exploitation of wind energy and the conservation of the protected bats. The German so-called 'Energiewende', the full transition from conventional to renewable energy sources, causes a steady increase in the number of wind power facilities (wind farms). This expansion of wind power production throughout Germany is also likely to drastically increase the total number of bat fatalities at wind turbines. There appears to be therefore a conflict between the development of renewable energy sources and the conservation of endangered and legally protected bats; a so-called green-green dilemma. According to expert estimates, about 250,000 of bats sailing through the night sky are currently dying at wind turbines every year as long as turbines are operated without mitigation measures. The cause of bat death is either a direct collision with the rotor blades of turbines or a barotrauma caused by abrupt air pressure changes in the tailwind vortices associated with the moving rotor blades. These abrupt air pressure changes shred the inner organs of bats and kill them instantly. Seventy percent of the bats slain by German wind farms are migrating bat species. Noctule bats (Nyctalus noctula) are among these migrating bat species. They are also among the largest bats flying in the night skies of Europe.

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