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Wind Power and Bats: Facing an Imminent Threat
Bat Conservation International 2004 Annual Report
Wind-power turbines may well prove to be the most dangerous threat to American bats in modern history. Bat Conservation International (BCI) is researching solutions as one of its most critical conservation initiatives.
The first major wind-energy farm to be built on a ridge top in the eastern United States - 44 wind turbines installed last year at West Virginia's Mountaineer Project - killed approximately 4,000 bats of seven species. Another 366 turbines are already approved for similar locations within a 50-mile (80-kilometer) radius, 92 of them on the same ridge. If a solution is not found, the spinning turbine blades in this one small area could soon be killing more than 35,000 bats every year.
With new tax incentives for wind energy, many thousands of additional turbines are likely to spring up across North America with potentially enormous impacts on bats. Without immediate, extensive and expensive research, there can be no solution.
BCI has begun a monumental research task. A meeting at our Austin, Texas headquarters in December brought together leaders of North America's wind power industry and key federal officials. The result was the Bats and Wind Energy Cooperative. Led by BCI, it includes the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Department of Energy, the American Wind Energy Association and two expert committees of international leaders from bat research and industry.
In February, bat experts from the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States met in Juno Beach, Florida, for a two-day workshop hosted by Florida Power and Light (FPL Energy), America's largest wind-energy producer. Workshop participants agreed on research and monitoring priorities for bats and wind energy. BCI, the American Wind Energy Association and the Department of Energy each committed to providing $50,000 a year for three years to the project, beginning in 2004.
The immediate goals are to coordinate research, develop guidelines and begin implementing project recommendations. Bat kills will be compared with weather and lunar cycles, habitats and the sounds and activity levels of the turbines. Ed Arnett, with a strong background in bat research and management, was hired as Project Coordinator.
Additional funding is urgently needed. This is a huge project that addresses a threat that is growing at an alarming rate. It cannot be neglected.