Understanding how bats use the landscape or interact with wind turbines can help us inform decisions for properly siting wind energy facilities or minimize the direct impact of wind turbines on bats.
The miniaturization of GPS tags (light enough to secure to bats) is allowing researchers to investigate the long-term and long-distance movements of migratory bats.
“This technology helps us understand better how they’re using the landscape,” says Michael Schirmacher, BCI Wind Energy Program Manager. “By learning migratory pathways with GPS technology, for example, we may be able to identify migratory pathways or activity hotspots, and better inform siting new turbines to avoid having to implement relatively costly minimization strategies.”
Thermal Imaging Cameras
High-resolution thermal cameras are also allowing BCI and its research partners to better see what even tiny 12-gram bats are doing at night around the turbines. The U.S. Geological Survey has been a key partner in this work, and in developing software and methodologies to help streamline analysis of the resulting footage.
By comparing video data with environmental information already being collected by the turbines themselves—wind speed, humidity and temperature—researchers can pinpoint which bats are dying, when and where, and under what conditions, to even further define dangerous conditions for bats. If we can understand and predict risk to bats, then our strategies to reduce or avoid impact may be more cost effective, increasing the potential for large scale adoption.
“For a long time, we’ve had to look on the ground for dead bats under turbines, and could only identify that a bat died the night before and what the average conditions were,” explains Cris Hein, BCI Director of Wind Energy. “Getting real-time conditions on when bats are near turbines is helpful for refining operational minimization or possibly identifying the best places to position ultrasonic acoustic deterrents. These cameras have really opened the door to a better understanding of bat behavior and timing around wind turbines.”
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