From the article below:

"A study last year of the 44-turbine Mountaineer wind farm estimated that at least 1,364 bats were killed there during a six-week period in 2004."

That's 32.5 bats per day!

 

Wind Generator to Use Fire to Examine Bats

By JOHN RABY, Associated Press WriterThu Jan 19, 7:56 PM ET

The nation's largest generator of wind power plans to use fire to study bat habitats. FPL Energy LLC operates 43 wind farms in 15 states, including the Mountaineer Wind Energy Center in Tucker County.

The company is teaming up with an environmental engineering firm and the U.S. Forest Service's Northeastern Research Station on the conservation project.

The project involves prescribed burning in a 4,000-acre experimental forest in Tucker County. The region is home to seven species of bats, including the federally endangered Indiana bat.

Researchers hope to develop conditions to maximize the bats' use of oak tree bark and foliage as summer day roosts. Oak trees are fire resistant while others like sugar and red maples are not.

"Several bat species look for that kind of structure in their dayroost habit, but they also like where the canopy is a little more open and receive quite a bit of sun," said Mark Ford, a research wildlife biologist with the Forest Service.

FPL Energy also is funding a project in which gates will be installed and evaluated for their impact on cave bats at the University of Central Oklahoma's Selman Living Laboratory.

The two are among 27 potential bat projects that the company has identified in seven states.

Wind power is one of the fastest-growing sources of renewable energy but it poses a dilemma for environmentalists, who support its pollution-free electricity but have grown increasingly alarmed at its death toll on birds and bats.

A study last year of the 44-turbine Mountaineer wind farm estimated that at least 1,364 bats were killed there during a six-week period in 2004.

"We think that it's incumbent upon us to learn as much as we can about bats just as our company and our industry has done with birds over the years," said Steve Stengel, spokesman for Juno Beach, Fla.-based FPL Energy LLC. "We view this as a natural extension of our learning."

Stengel said the conservation projects are unrelated to wind-farm operations.

"These were projects that were in the works before FPL Energy ever became involved. We're providing funding to get these projects over the finish line," he said. "If we're able to help fund it and help learn something about bat conservation, then everybody wins."

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Below is an article from the Fall 2005 issue of Bat Conservation International, with a comprehensive discussion of the emerging documentation of severe bat kill problems at wind farms in West Virginia and Pennsylvania, and a lager discussion what needs to be done to reduce the impacts of growing wind power development on bats.

 

www.batcon.org

 

Battered by Harsh Winds

Must Bats Pay the Price for Wind Energy?

 

<>Through the psychedelic lens of a thermal-imaging camera, the 115-foot (35-meter) blades of giant wind turbines are blends of reds, yellows, blues and purples.
Then a bat arrives as a surreal triangle with an orange core that shifts through yellows, reds and shades of blue out to its wing tips. The images show the colorful little bat meeting the spinning blade and spiraling down and out of the picture. If the camera could have tracked the bat, it would have seen orange warmth fade to cold blue.
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The $60,000 thermal imaging cameras set up at the Mountaineer Wind Energy Center in West Virginia showed bats approaching the electricity-producing turbines almost like curious kittens enchanted by a tumbling ball of yarn. When the blades were spinning at their standard 17 revolutions per minute (rpm), the results could be and often were fatal. Yet bats sometimes chased harmlessly after the tips of slow - moving blades as though investigating the inexplicable devices that proved neither prey nor bat. Some bats actually landed on stationary blades, suggesting curiosity about potential roosts or sources of insects.
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Boston University researcher Jason Horn set up three thermal imaging cameras night after night at the Mountaineer Wind Energy Center in Thomas, West Virginia, to record, for the first time, bats’ interactions with the 220- foot-tall (67-meter) wind turbines. He collected and stored hundreds of hours of video footage – more than 8,000 gigabytes of data – that has since been meticulously studied to finally let biologists see how the rapidly spreading wind turbines are killing bats and, we hope, learn how to avoid those deaths.
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Horn joined forces during the summer of 2004 with BCI Conservation Scientist Ed Arnett (wind energy research coordinator), statistician Wally Erickson of Western Ecosystems Technology and biologist Jessica Kerns from the University of Maryland in the most intensive investigation of bat fatalities at wind farms ever conducted. The six-week field study, from July 31 through September 13, 2004, was under the direction of the Bats and Wind Energy Cooperative (a BCI-led alliance of key federal agencies, wind-industry groups and international experts).
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The study was funded by BCI, the American Wind Energy Association, the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory and alternative energy initiatives from several states. Florida Power and Light Energy, a key industry partner in last year’s progress, offered
its wind facilities at Mountaineer, West Virginia (44 turbines), and Meyersdale, Pennsylvania (20 turbines), for the study. Both are located along the Appalachian Plateau. <> 
The scientists’ report summarizing the first year’s research into potential causes and solutions to the bat kills was released last June (see www.batcon.org/wind/research/). The study documented alarming kill rates at both facilities. We calculated that between 1,364 and 1,980 bats were killed at Mountaineer and 400 to 660 died at Meyersdale during just this six-week period. These estimates support the observation that wind farms built on forested ridges, as these were, pose especially high risks for bats.
<> 
Our work pointed us toward a promising and apparently low-cost possibility for sharply reducing bat kills at turbines. At both locations, the majority of bat kills occurred on nights of low wind, when electricity production was insubstantial but blades were kept spinning at or near full speed. Of the 64 turbines studied, only one produced no bat fatalities – it was also the only turbine that was out of service, with its blades “feathered” (turned parallel to the wind and left to rotate slowly, so they posed little or no threat to bats) throughout the study.
<> 
The Bats and Wind Energy Cooperative scientists propose that most bat kills can be avoided by simply not attempting to power up blade rotation until wind speeds reach profitable levels. Based on these findings, our scientific team recommends experiments that would compare fatalities when turbine blades are feathered versus when they are set to spin at near-normal speeds during low-wind periods. The goal is to measure precisely how much mortality can be prevented and at what impact on power production.
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Unfortunately, the cooperative has not yet found a single windfarm operator willing to permit such experiments, despite earlier promises of participation.
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The 2004 research identified bat fatalities of six species at both sites: hoary bats (Lasiurus cinereus), eastern red bats (Lasiurus borealis), eastern pipistrelles (Pipistrellus subflavus), little brown myotis (Myotis lucifugus), silverhaired bats (Lasionycteris noctivagans) and big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus). Northern myotis (Myotis septentrionalis) were killed only at Meyersdale.
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Rain or shine, for six weeks in that August and early September, field technicians searched each day along transect lines under turbines looking for dead birds and bats. Half of the turbines were searched once each day while the others were searched once a week so the fatality counts of the two sampling intervals could be compared. The searchers’ ability to find dead bats was, not surprisingly, highest on bare ground and declined precipitously as the height and density of vegetation increased. Overall search efficiency was estimated at just 25 percent at Meyersdale and 44 percent at Mountaineer.
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We also confirmed that the removal of dead bats by scavengers such as ravens and coyotes seriously reduced overall mortality estimates, demonstrating the necessity of daily searches. At Mountaineer, scavengers removed 70 percent of confirmed bat kills within 24 hours. At Meyersdale, where scavenging rates were low, the estimates for daily and weekly searches were similar. The Mountaineer facility began operation one year earlier than Meyersdale and it is possible that scavengers had more time to learn of a new food source beneath turbines at Mountaineer.
<> 
At both localities, bat kills were in full swing prior to beginning our six week study and they continued unabated through its end. Peak kills showed similar timing at both sites, suggesting that broader, perhaps regional, conditions – landscape, weather patterns or prey availability – contribute to the patterns of fatalities we observed. As noted, most bat kills occurred when average wind speed and power production were low but turbine blades were kept spinning at relatively high speeds. More male than female bat fatalities were recorded, but the timing of the kills was similar. Bat kills occurred at turbines located throughout both facilities, but higher than average numbers were found at turbines near the ends and centers of both wind farms. The presence of aircraft warning lights on turbines had no detectable impact on bat kills.
<> 
The thermal images indicated that bats were attracted to both moving and non-moving blades. Images of bats chasing turbine blades rotating at slow speeds suggest the possibility of attraction to movement that may be confused with prey or perhaps other bats.
<> 
This study covered only six weeks of a single year and was not intended to measure a full season of bat activity, behavior or fatalities. Unusually cool summer temperatures and the passage of four major hurricanes in August may have greatly reduced ridge-top bat activity, as high winds and low temperatures are known to suppress bat and insect activity, particularly at higher elevations.
<> 
Full-season searches, extending from April through October, are needed to fully understand the patterns of bat fatalities at wind turbines. Nonetheless, our results reveal an emerging pattern of alarming kill rates at wind-energy facilities on forested ridges. Similar fatality rates are likely at other sites with comparable forests and topography. There are also reports of widely distributed but poorly documented kills under varied conditions in the western United States.
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This vital, state-of-the-art research could not have been accomplished without the Bats and Wind Energy Cooperative and the support of all parties involved. By working together, we now have a much better understanding of the causes and potential solutions to this rapidly escalating problem. We still face many challenges, however, and much more research is required. Bat Conservation International cannot condone further turbine construction, especially along wooded ridgelines, until solutions are found, tested and applied to minimize bat kills at wind-energy facilities.
<> 
But we are, as always, committed to gathering solid, scientific data and working with diverse partners to develop solutions that can benefit all of us without endangering the ecosystems upon which we must build the future.

 

Key Wind Industry Player Deals Bats a Blow

 

The Bats and Wind Energy Cooperative – an unusual partnership of conservationists, government and industry – made tremendous progress last year. We conducted the most detailed studies ever on bat fatalities at wind sites, building a firm foundation for understanding why bats are being killed and how those deaths might be prevented. As a result of that research, BWEC scientists recommended comparing bat mortality at turbines with their blades “feathered” (turned parallel to the wind and essentially immobile) in low winds versus those with blades rotating normally. Since most bat kills occurred during periods of low wind, when little electricity is produced, feathering the blades at those times might sharply reduce the threat to bats at minimal expense. The goal is to document exactly how much mortality might be prevented and at what cost.

Then things started falling apart.

<>  <>After being presented with the 2004 research results and with proposals for new research that holds the potential for significantly reducing bat kills, officials at FPL Energy – America’s largest windpower producer – withdrew the company’s cooperation toward critically needed research. In fact, the company is now denying our scientific team further access to any FPL facilities nationwide. Since FPL owns more that half of all U.S. wind facilities, many of which are currently killing bats, this decision prevents our most critical scientific research.  <>
FPL’s Woodward facility, for example, is just a few miles from the Selma Bat Cave, a protected bat sanctuary near Woodward, Oklahoma, that is home to some 5 million Mexican free-tailed bats. Reports from bird researchers suggest that substantial numbers of bats are being killed there, but that most deaths occur at only relatively few turbines. Research to determine why bat mortality is high at some turbines but not others at the same facility could prove invaluable in identifying possible solutions. BCI has offered to fully fund the research, but still we have been denied access.
  <>
We are making every possible effort to collaborate with industry in the search for solutions to this developing crisis. And we are encouraged by the continuing support of the American Wind Energy Association, the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory and several leading wind-energy companies, which are committing to multiyear studies of bat activity and mortality.
<> 
To date, the Cooperative has not found a wind-farm owner willing to host our most critical experiments. We are, however, still pursuing this promising area of research. We face many challenges in our search for answers and urgently need the support and cooperation of all players, especially industry, if wind energy is to fulfill its promise.
<> 

A Lethal Crisis
<> 
Wind is touted as an endlessly renewable, “green-energy” step toward reducing our reliance on fossil fuels. That potential may yet be realized – but only after we resolve well documented threats to wildlife. An energy source simply cannot be “green” if it kills thousands upon thousands of bats.
<> 
Many misleading claims are being made for wind energy, and concerns are rising among conservationists and biologists. The National Academy of Sciences, as well as The Wildlife Society, is initiating a technical review of the impacts of wind farms on wildlife. Most leading environmental and conservation organizations have supported wind-energy development. But some are now reassessing their positions because of mounting evidence of bat and bird kills and the dearth of scientifically credible evidence to support responsible development.
<> 
Because there is no legal protection for most bats, they have been virtually ignored in early wind-energy planning. As of November 2004, only 12 of more than 200
U.S. turbine facilities (with a nationwide total of some 16,000 turbines) had been examined for bat kills – and only six of those attempted to estimate total bat mortality.Most mortality searches were conducted at 7- to 28-day intervals and did not adequately account for dead bats that were removed by scavengers or missed by searchers working amid dense vegetation. <> 
In Texas, more than 1,400 turbines have been built without any assessment of bat kills – and the absence of reported mortality has been presented by wind-power proponents as proof that turbines pose little or no threat.
<> 
And still more wind turbines are being proposed at an alarming pace, particularly with the recent extension of federal tax incentives for wind development. The U.S.
Government Accountability Office says more than 62,000 additional turbines would be needed by 2020 to meet Department of Energy goals for wind energy. <> 
At least 300 new turbines are proposed or under construction in Texas, with several more projects under review. Wind energy is moving from private property onto public lands, as well: 500 megawatts of wind power already are installed on U.S. Bureau of Land Management property. The BLM has authorized
88 new applications for wind-energy development and has another 68 pending. Applications also have been submitted to the U.S. Forest Service. <> 
If the approximately 900 turbines currently proposed for wooded ridge tops within a 70-mile radius of our study sites in Pennsylvania and West Virginia are built, those turbines alone could kill more than 50,000 bats a year. Given bats’ low reproductive rates, kills of such magnitude could put entire species at risk.
<> 
To prevent an environmental crisis, it is essential that local authorities require wind energy companies to resolve wildlife concerns during the permitting process. We believe that wind energy can be compatible with bat conservation, but only if clear, well researched safeguards are enacted.
<> 
We strongly encourage research and development of efficient, wildlife-safe wind technology. But we cannot support the current rush to development without first finding solutions to prevent bat kills that could have devastating cumulative impacts across North America.
<> 
It is imperative that those of us committed to maintaining healthy ecosystems make our voices heard. Some of America’s largest, most ecologically and economically important bat populations could be reduced to endangered status, or even eliminated, if we do not act now.
<>And, as always, we urge that greater energy conservation – by far our most powerful tool available for dealing with worldwide energy shortages – be encouraged and implemented much more aggressively throughout society.<> You can make a difference by sharing your concerns in your community and with conservation organizations you support. Contact local companies, permitting officials and state and federal legislators to insist that wildlife problems are not ignored in new wind-energy projects.  <>We must not rush into an energy source that is not yet green, but could be.