In an effort to further protect bats, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) says it will adopt new operating protocols that will reduce bat fatalities from wind turbines by as much as 30%.
The agreement, which AWEA says was supported by 17 member companies, involves wind operators voluntarily limiting the operations of turbines in low-wind-speed conditions during the fall bat migration season, when research has shown bats are most at risk of collision.
During the fall migration season, wind operators will begin to slow blade rotations to fewer than one to three revolutions per minute – depending on blade length – thereby reducing the risk of collision. The association notes that its new protocols are based on more than a decade's worth of research by the Bats and Wind Energy Cooperative (BWEC).
AWEA says that on-the-ground research over the past decade at a number of operating wind farms has shown that slowing down the blade's rotation can significantly reduce the collision risk for bats in low-wind-speed conditions.
The expected reduction of overall bat impacts was calculated with data from the research by BWEC and the conservation and academic communities that worked with the industry to identify solutions.
The move was applauded by the conservation community.
‘The implementation of this industry-wide practice is an important step and demonstrates how far the wind energy industry has come on the issue of bats,’ says Andrew Walker, executive director at Bat Conservation International. ‘We believe this will, on average, reduce bat fatalities significantly among participating facilities across the country. We appreciate the industry's efforts to protect species of bats that otherwise would have no protection under current federal law.’