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Scientists Save Bats and Birds from Wind Turbine Slaughter

In the past two decades, wind generation in the United States has increased almost 50 times over, now comprising nearly a full quarter of the country’s renewable energy. Arising from this push, though, is a huge problem for the birds and bats that live near wind farms, reports Meera Subramanian in Nature. “The troubling issue with [...]

Wind turbines in Pennsylvania. Photo: Colin Schultz

In the past two decades, wind generation in the United States has increased almost 50 times over, now comprising nearly a full quarter of the country’s renewable energy.

Arising from this push, though, is a huge problem for the birds and bats that live near wind farms, reports Meera Subramanian in Nature.

“The troubling issue with wind development is that we’re seeing a growing number of birds of conservation concern being killed by wind turbines,” says Albert Manville, a biologist with the US Fish and Wildlife Service in Arlington, Virginia.”

Indeed, bats seem to have a particularly rough time navigating turbines, notes Discovery News.

“Researchers have found the cause behind mysterious bat deaths near wind turbines, in which many bat carcasses appeared uninjured. The explanation to this puzzle is that the bats’ lungs effectively blow up from the rapid pressure drop that occurs as air flows over the turbine blades.”

Subramanian’s story describes a number of ongoing efforts to come up with ways to protect flying populations, while still allowing for the expansion of a sorely-needed form of renewable energy. In one case,

“Sometimes a slight change in procedures can make a big difference. For example, most turbines are set to turn on when wind speeds reach 4.0 metres per second. But when the Iberdrola Renewables Casselman Wind Project in Pennsylvania increased the threshold to 5.5 metres per second, it slashed deaths of bats — which don’t fly as much in high winds — by 93% while shaving just 1% off of power production, says Ed Arnett.”

More from Smithsonian.com:

Embedded Technologies: Power From the People

Can Wind Power Be Wildlife Friendly

 

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About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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