Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Researchers Express Concern over Bat Deaths at Two Turbine Sites

The Washington Post reported this weekend on efforts to understand what caused several large bat kills at two wind turbine sites - one in West Virginia, and the other in Pennsylvania.

According to the article, researchers estimate the 2004 death toll on Backbone Mountain in West Virginia, at a facility called Mountaineer Wind Energy Center, between 1,500 and 4,000 bats. But, as the article explains, researchers are baffled by what caused the isolated events at these sites over the past two years: "Researchers are uncertain whether bats are attracted to the spinning blades or if their sonar, which allows them to find food and avoid trees and other objects, fails to detect the turbines."

If validated, these bat kill estimates would place these two turbine locations well above the estimated average for bat kills at wind turbine sites across the U.S.. The National Wind Coordinate Committee, which conducted a comprehensive analysis of national research on wind turbine interactions with birds and bats in November of 2004, estimates the national average of bat kills to be approximately 3.4 bats per turbine per year.

Researchers at the Mountaineer Wind Energy Center are using radar and thermal imaging cameras in an effort to further understand the interaction of bats and turbines, and their research may offer some insight into why the bat kill estimates at these two southern appalachian sites are such anomalies.

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