3 August 2012
Small wind turbines have big impact on bats
Latest research indicates that small wind turbines (‘microturbines’) can have a significant impact on bats in the vicinity. Researchers from the University of Stirling compared bat and bird activity (such as flying and hunting) at UK sites with moving and stationary turbine blades. They found that, while bird activity was not significantly affected at these sites, bat activity was 54% lower close to operational microturbines.
What this means for bats
Bat activity includes hunting for insects to eat, and travelling between their roosts and hunting sites. If bat activity is reduced due to the presence of operational microturbines bats may have difficulty finding the food they need in order to survive. Fragmentation of commuting habitat might mean some bats are unable to return to their seasonal roosts to hibernate or give birth, and that they cannot access suitable hunting sites.
Bats already face enormous environmental pressures and loss of habitat, with huge historical declines in bat populations reported in the twentieth century. With the increasing popularity of microturbines as domestic source of energy, it is important that research findings like these feed into the development of planning guidelines to minimise the impact of turbines on bats whilst providing renewable energy.
Dr Kirsty Park, Senior Lecturer in Ecology at University of Stirling said: “Our findings will provide valuable information for future planning, by helping to create more sensible and useful guidelines for the siting and installation of new small wind turbines. This will help us to maximise the benefits of renewable energy generation whilst minimising potentially adverse effects on wildlife.”