The U.S. wind energy industry has announced a commitment to reduce bat fatalities caused by wind turbines by 30 percent or more. The news came leading up to National Wildlife Day and is an agreement between the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) and 17 member companies. The agreement involves wind operators’ voluntarily limiting the operations of turbines in low-wind speed conditions during the fall bat migration season when research shows bats are most at risk. The new protocols are based on over 10 years of research by the Bats and Wind Energy Cooperative (BWEC) and others.
“The adoption of this protocol to reduce impacts to bats is a continuation of our legacy of care for wildlife and the environment,” said Tom Kiernan, CEO of AWEA. “American wind power is strongly committed to producing one of the safest and cleanest forms of energy, for people and wildlife. As we continue to strive to make the wind industry’s impacts as low as possible, we hope this step can serve to encourage other energy industries, and all businesses for that matter, to proactively take steps to reduce their impacts on the environment in their respective communities.”
AWEA said in a statement that despite the potential collective loss of millions of dollars in electric generation, the U.S. wind energy industry has voluntarily committed to changing how turbines are operated during the bats’ fall migration season, slowing blade rotations to fewer than 1-3 revolutions a minute, depending on blade length, thereby reducing the risk of collision. On-the-ground research over the past decade at a number of operating wind farms has shown this measures will significantly reduce the collision risk for bats in low wind speed conditions when they are most at risk. The expected reduction of overall bat impacts was calculated with data from the research by BWEC and the conservation and academic communities who worked with the industry to identify solutions.
“That this industry-wide best practice has been voluntarily adopted demonstrates how the U.S. wind energy industry holds itself to a higher standard,” said John Anderson, senior director, permitting policy and environmental affairs, for AWEA. “Our industry values all wildlife and habitat. By proactively employing this measure to reduce our already low environmental impacts further, consumers can have even more confidence in buying clean, affordable, and carbon-free wind energy.”
Representatives from the conservation community applauded the action taken by the industry. “Through common sense practices and a proactive spirit by the wind industry, it’s clear we can both move the nation toward a clean energy future, and protect wildlife,” said Collin O’Mara, President and CEO, National Wildlife Federation of the announcement.
This year, National Wildlife Day was celebrated on September 4th.