What do Bats and Wind Turbines Have in Common?
June 04, 2018
Our future is renewable resources. With that, we want to find a common ground where we can meet our renewable goal and have minimal impact on the wildlife population. Our two-year study on bats’ will help us when choosing future wind farm locations.
Why are we researching bats?
Many people think of bats as flying mice, but they’re actually very valuable. Bats provide pest control services for agriculture. They eat moths and other insects that attack crops. This saves farmers and businesses a lot of money.
But, bats are attracted to wind turbines. Their curiosity is deadly and bat fatalities around wind turbines are high. Bat populations can’t easily bounce back after large declines as they only have one or two offspring a year.
This research will influence future wind energy site selection and help reduce impacts to bats. It’ll also help preserve the bat population while ensuring a natural option to pest control remains.
What is our goal with this research?
In Saskatchewan, there has been very little research on the bats and wind turbine issue. Because of this, we reached out to the University of Regina to study bats’ behaviours. We asked:
- What type of habitat do bats like the most?
- Do bats have migratory pathways through the province?
- What are the population risks from wind turbine development?
- How can we reduce risk to bats during wind turbine site selection?
How is the research being completed?
We want to know where bats are in the province and how they fly. This will help us when we're looking at potential wind farm locations. We can avoid populated areas and reduce the risk for bats’. Right now, we’re tracking bats by:
- Bat detectors set out across the province in different habitat types that we think may be important to bats.
- Manually capturing, identifying and counting bats with the use of mist nets.
Because migratory bats are the most at risk, we’re studying three types of species:
- Hoary Bats
- Silver-haired bats
- Eastern red bats
We’re also studying how these species migrate south for the winter. We want to know if they’re following migratory routes and if those routes follow landmarks like river valleys.
How does this feed into our commitment to renewables?
Our operations are closely linked to the environment. Our goal is to have a cleaner energy future by using renewable resources. Over the next 12 years, that could mean up to 500 new wind turbines on the landscape. To do this we need to ensure we plan using the best social, economic and environmental information wherever we can.
Why are bats attracted to wind turbines?
Bats live a long time -- 20 to 30 years -- and may have flown through this landscape many times. They’re very curious animals. When something big and new pops up, like a wind turbine, bats investigate them to see what they are. A theory is that bats are attracted to wind turbines because of:
- The turbine sound;
- A cluster of insects; or
- To find a mate.
- Bats also make our lives more comfortable: A single little brown bat can catch more than 1,200 mosquito-sized insects in an hour.
- 80 per cent of bat fatalities at wind energy facilities are migratory tree-roosting bats.