The American wind energy industry is confident in the ability of current and future conservation measures to protect the hoary bat species from being threatened by wind turbines.
The American Wind Energy Association responded this week to a recently published study which raised the spectre of extinction for Lasiurus cinereus, the hoary bat. According to the study, published in the journal Biological Conservation and authored by a group of international experts, concluded that 128,000 hoary bats are killed each year (though the available press material and journal abstract do not explicitly state this figure is entirely the fault of wind turbines), and that even if no new wind turbines are built over the next 50 years, the species’ population could decline by as much as 90% over the same period.
“The hoary bat could be the next spotted owl,” said Mike Daulton, Executive Director of Bat Conservation International. “This species is headed for the emergency room if we don’t act now.”
“These findings are a wakeup call. Our study focused on the hoary bat, which has the highest observed fatalities,” explained Winifred Frick, Senior Director of Conservation Science for Bat Conservation International and lead author on the paper. “Other migratory bats also have high levels of mortality from wind turbines.”
“We need to implement significant conservation measures to reduce mortality from wind turbine collisions and soon — effective conservation measures will help not just hoary bats but all bats that get killed by turbines.”
Over the past several decades there have always been studies investigating the impact wind turbines have on the mortality of wildlife — and in almost every situation I can pinpoint, wind energy developers are not only required but enthusiastic about conducting serious and intensive wildlife conservation research and studies on their prospective sites.
Additionally, as explained by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) in its response to the new research, the studies’ conclusions do not necessarily take into account all the relevant facts.
“The wind industry is confident that the conservation measures we have put in place and those in the pipeline can prevent the scenario articulated in this study,” said Tom Vinson, Vice President of Federal Regulatory Affairs with the AWEA. “These conservation measures were not considered by the authors.”
“The wind energy industry takes its wildlife conservation responsibilities seriously, including with respect to bats, and is proactively working to reduce our impacts. Even for bats that are not protected by federal law, the industry conducts pre-construction studies to understand potential risks and develops bat conservation strategies to address any concerns. That includes provisions to implement additional conservation measures if issues arise, and monitoring at operating facilities to verify actual impacts.”
The Bat Conservation International experts report were similarly not as doom-and-gloom as the report detailed.
“Solutions are within our grasp,” said Mike Daulton. “We have great hope that this is a problem that the conservation community, key government agencies and the wind industry can work together to solve.”
The AWEA also commented on some of these “solutions” that might help mitigate undue harm to bat populations.
“Early results of the research into acoustic deterrent devices, for example using ultrasonic sounds that bats can detect to ward them away from turbines, have shown promise and that research continues,” explained Tom Vinson. “Various bat species have been significantly harmed by white nose syndrome and are at further risk as a result of climate change, for which expanding wind energy is a leading solution. The wind industry has a legacy of care for the environment and will continue to work to protect bats while addressing these larger threats to their survival.”
Images courtesy of Bat Conservation International
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