Despite their sometimes bad reputation, bats are an integral and very useful part of the the ecosystem. While White-nose Syndrome is the largest threat facing bats in the Adirondacks right now there are still other threats to consider.
Wind Turbines Cause Bat Deaths
Many people are worried that birds are majorly threatened by wind turbines, but in actuality bats are much more at risk!
“Bat fatalities have now been documented at nearly every wind facility in North America where adequate surveys for bats have been conducted, and several of these sites are estimated to cause the deaths of thousands of bats per year.” (US Geological Survey)
Bats are renowned for their aerial skills, so why can’t they avoid the blades of the turbines? “It’s possible that high-frequency noise from the turbines’ gears and blades could be disrupting the bats’ echolocation systems” (NewScientist).
There are two causes of death for bat bodies found near the turbines:
1) Blunt-force trauma from colliding with the turbine blades or poles.
- “Bats can easily navigate around stationary objects but the spinning turbines–where the blade tip can be moving about 175 miles per hour–pose a problem.” With an echolocation range of about 60 feet a bat only have about a quarter of a second to react! (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
2) Or barotrauma caused by flying through areas of different pressure created by the spinning turbine blades.
- Bats are sometimes able to avoid a direct hit and fly between the blades, but the dramatic air pressure change surrounding a blade can cause serious internal injuries–aka organs can explode! (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
The Bats Most at Risk
The problem seems to be worse at wind farms on forested ridges, perhaps because more bats are attracted to such insect-rich places?
“The majority of bats killed at wind turbines are migratory bats that roost in trees, including hoary bats, eastern red bats, and silver-haired bats” (Science Daily). It is speculated that “behavior plays a key role in the susceptibility of bats to wind turbines, and that migratory tree bats might actually be attracted to wind turbines,” but as yet there have been no studies done to determine whether this is the case (US Geological Survey).
I certainly don’t believe wind turbines should not be used because they are a very valuable clean source of energy. However, more research must be done to determine ways to stop or lessen the amount of bats killed by wind turbines.