Investigating Bats and Wind Turbine Coexistence

Three business teams have received money from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to support projects involving wind energy and bat research. The recipients will get a share of the $1.1 million total to do research on how bats behave around wind turbines and wind power plants. They were chosen through the NREL Enabling Coexistence Options for Wind Energy and Wildlife (ECO Wind) programs first competitive request for proposals , which opens in October 2021.

Wind energy project developers must find ways for wind turbines to securely live with local animals as wind energy deployment expands across the United States. The ECO Wind program at NREL’s Flatirons Campus is supported by funding from the U.S. Department of Energy Wind Energy Technologies Office and helps achieve protect vulnerable wildlife species while assuring sustainable wind energy deployment.

The relationship between bats and wildlife is particularly problematic when it comes to wind energy. The information that is currently available suggests that migratory tree-roosting bats, such as the eastern red bat, hoary bat, and silver-haired bat, are most at risk ; nonetheless, many aspects of these nocturnal, elusive animals’ interactions with wind turbines are still unknown.

Some bats appear to be drawn to wind turbines for reasons that are still being investigated, according to NREL researcher Cris Hein, who is in charge of NREL’s wind energy environmental science portfolio . Bats have been observed approaching and exploring the various parts of wind turbines, including the blades, in earlier investigations. The likelihood of a collision rises as bats spend more time flying close to the swiftly rotating blades.

With smart curtailment (slowing down or stopping the rotation of turbine blades when bats are present) or deterrents, these interactions can be reduced by better understanding this behavior (devices that discourage bats from approaching wind turbines).

DESCRIBE THE AWARDEES Over the following two years, the grantees will monitor bat activity at working wind energy projects. Thermo imaging, which makes use of a specific sort of video camera to record the heat signature of bats’ bodies so they can be discovered at night without the use of additional light, will be used by all three teams to perform their research.

Reston, Virginia ( Bowman ) and Hinesburg, Vermont ( Wildlife Imaging Systems )

Bowman is an engineering services company that offers a range of technical services, including environmental consulting, planning, engineering, surveying and mapping, construction management, and land acquisition. For the community of wildlife researchers, Wildlife Imaging Systems creates cutting-edge computer vision and machine learning solutions. What They Will Study: Bowman and Wildlife Imaging Systems will examine how bats interact with wind turbines in various environments in order to describe bat flying patterns near wind turbines. The research team will examine thermal video data gathered at wind energy installations in Texas and Minnesota. The team will examine bat flight patterns at several sites to identify patterns in bat behavior and collision occurrences and to gain further insight into bat attraction to wind turbines. What They Hope to Learn: The team hopes to advance our knowledge of how bats react to wind turbines and whether they behave differently depending on where they are observed. To do this, they will be studying bat behavior from two separate states. Electric Power Research Institute DC, Washington

Who They Are: The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) is a non-profit organization that carries out research and development to assist address issues with energy reliability, efficiency, affordability, health, safety, and the environment. The EPRI team will look into whether bats prefer the calmer air directly behind wind turbines or the chaotic air around them. How They’ll Study It: At a wind energy facility in Iowa, the team will utilize thermal video cameras to monitor bat activity close to wind turbines and tall trees. What They Hope to Learn: The EPRI team hopes to learn whether a better understanding of airflow around turbines can assist us in discouraging bats from approaching them by comparing three-dimensional bat movement patterns with modeled airflow patterns and evaluating whether bat behavior at wind turbines is comparable to that at tall trees. Wildlife Imaging Systems Hinesburg, Vermont, and Stantec Consulting Services Inc. Topsham, Maine

Who They Are: Environmental sciences of facilities projects are part of the consulting firm Stantec Consulting Services Inc.’s portfolio. The team will look into where and how bats use the airspace close to the rotor-swept region (where the blades of a wind turbine spin). The researchers will study it by combining sound detectors deployed on wind turbines at wind farms in Maine and Missouri with ground-based thermal video cameras. In order to account for the potential effects of habitat, season, turbine operation, and weather on bat activity, the team will record bat acoustic activity at various heights on the turbines and portions of the rotor-swept area at both locations. What They Hope to Learn: To monitor bats and identify the variables influencing the behavior of the various species, the team wants to compare the advantages and disadvantages of various monitoring systems, particularly acoustic detectors and cameras. At the conclusion of the two-year study period, the grantees will present a final report detailing their results and development throughout the course of the project. Through scholarly publications, the findings will be made available to the general audience. The teams will also talk about their work at public virtual webinars that are broadcast on NREL Enabling Coexistence Options for Wind Energy and Wildlife (ECO Wind) programs 0.

Visit the NREL NREL Enabling Coexistence Options for Wind Energy and Wildlife (ECO Wind) programs 1 and U.S. Department of Energy Wind Energy Technologies Office NREL Enabling Coexistence Options for Wind Energy and Wildlife (ECO Wind) programs 2 websites to learn more about studies on wind energy and wildlife.

Through Tara McMurtry
Thanks to the NREL Enabling Coexistence Options for Wind Energy and Wildlife (ECO Wind) programs 3 for the article.
John Yarbrough, NREL, is the source of the featured photo.

Do you value the unique reporting and cleantech news coverage on CleanTechnica? Consider becoming a patron on NREL Enabling Coexistence Options for Wind Energy and Wildlife (ECO Wind) programs 4 or a CleanTechnica Member, Supporter, Technician, or Ambassador.

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