WIND FACES CHALLENGES, FINDS SOLUTIONS
Wind energy finds fix for exploding bats
Tait Militana, March 23, 2009 (Washington Times)
The wind power industry is reportedly on the verge of conquering another of its challenges and positioning itself for greater, faster growth.
Turbines at some sites have been associated with bat deaths in very high numbers, causing doubts about wind technology among environmentalists.
Bats seem to identify the towers as potential perches or sense abundant insects near them. When the bats fly near the spinning blades, they get caught in the wind vortex. The tiny creatures experience a sudden pressure change in their lungs that causes internal hemorrhaging, something like what humans experience when they get the bends.
Objections from environmentalists to the endangerment of the bats, which are an important part of the natural control of insect populations, have slowed the identification of acceptable sites for wind installations.
The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) wrote the book on best practices for siting. (click to enlarge)
The solution to the dilemma, developed in a study of Iberdrola Renewables wind installations in Pennsylvania and West Virginia by researcher Ed Arnett, is to turn the turbines off when the wind is blowing at very low speeds at night. According to the research, taking this step will eliminate 90% of the bat deaths at the cost of 1-to-2% of the turbines’ power generation.
The American Wind Wildlife Institute (AWWI) was created to proactively develop solutions. (click to enlarge)
- The wind power industry is the most advanced of the U.S. New Energy industries. That is partly because windmills are among the oldest of humankind’s efforts to harness its natural gifts with technology. It is also partly because the wind power industry, ever since its emergence in the 1970s and 80s, has squarely faced the challenges it met and found solutions. Green energy, not greenwashing, has always been the wind industry's goal.
- The first large-scale wind installation, built in California’s Altamont Pass in 1981-82, caused serious harm to migrating bird, especially raptor, populations. The wind industry carefully studied the bird deaths and adjusted its technology and siting procedures. As a result, the next installation that was built, in California’s San Gorgonio Pass, has created no such problems.
- Over the intervening years, more has been learned about protecting birds. The size and structure of the towers and blades, the speeds of the blades and the coatings of the towers and blades have all been engineered to essentially eliminate bird deaths.
Wind resolved the bird challenge and is resolving the bat challenge. (click to enlarge)
- Today, far more birds die as a result of collisions with tall buildings and confrontations with feral cats than die as a result of encounters with wind turbines.
- Wind project developers in recent years have attempted to site their installations in safer locations since they became aware of the potential harm to bats.
- In an effort to establish parameters satisfactory to environmentalists, animal habitat specialists and the wide range of other concerned parties, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) has written a handbook on siting.
- The industry also proactively created the American Wind Wildlife Institute (AWWI), a public-private coalition of industry, governmental and environmental specialists that is writing more elaborate and detailed guidelines and establishing a forum in which new challenges can be considered going forward.
- The proposed solution to the bat issue, turning off the turbines during times of slowed winds when the bats are most vulnerable, will cost enormously in lost power generation. It is another demonstration of the wind industry’s commitment to doing the right thing in the right way even when there is a price to pay.
Old turbine towers provided perches for migrating birds that lured them into danger...(click to enlarge)
- Laurie Jodziewicz, siting authority, American Wind Energy Association (AWEA): "We are all really excited about this…The industry takes this issue very seriously."
- Tom Kunz, bat researcher, Boston University: "You can´t see very much on the outside…[But autopsies reveal] hemorrhages on the lungs. They simply burst open."
...Modern turbines offer no such perches. (click to enlarge)
- Kunz, bat researcher, on the importance of protecting bat populations: "Bats take a very important role in limiting insect populations, including pests…Once you remove a top predator, it creates a cascade effect on the rest of the organisms."
- Jodziewicz, AWEA, on the seriousness of the hit projects will take to protect bats:"Any kilowatts created are money in the pocket…Anything that reduces kilowatt hours from our projects is a concern. It is something that affects the bottom line of these companies."