Land-based wind turbines kill as many as 880,000 bats a year, wiping out so many threatened bats that at least one species could soon become endangered without preventative action, according to a recent study.
Bat conservation experts and scientists say they currently do not know how to stop turbine collisions. So the U.S. Department of Energy is now giving nearly $8 million to five research centers to develop strategies for deterring bats from wind turbines.
One team, from Bat Conservation International, will use a portion of the funds to see if limiting the use of nighttime lighting on wind farms would make migrating bats less likely to fly through blades. Researchers at Boise State University, also part of the grant, will design better ultrasonic sounds to scare off bats. And Iowa State University engineers are looking to mount high-pitched whistle devices on the blades.
Scientists will also be investigating whether wind turbines attract bats. Researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory will look to determine if bright lights and turbine silhouettes, among other turbine characteristics, stimulate an attraction response in bats. The funded projects are part of a larger, $72 million effort to spark innovations in wind and water energy technology.
“It is vital that wind energy is appropriately and responsibly sited, which includes the protection of wildlife and their habitats,” the Department of Energy said in a release. These projects “will advance bat deterrent technologies by supporting bat behavioral research, technology development, and field testing.”