It is a good thing that politicians in the state of Texas have embraced alternative power sources, like wind turbines, even if it means that a few bats will die. Most people are probably unaware of the unfortunate association between bats and wind turbines. To put it simply, bats are flying into wind turbines and are dying as a result. This unintended consequence of installing wind turbines had never been considered before. When wind turbines were first erected in south and west Texas, birds started flying head first into the structures, but now bats seem to have taken the place of birds. Considering that the blades of a wind turbine span the length of a football field, it is not surprising to learn that bats are running into them. It must also be noted that bats, unlike birds, rely on echolocation in order to navigate, which is a contributing factor in their unfortunate turbine-related deaths.
While many birds have crashed into wind turbines, bats seem to be unable to adapt to the presence of these enormous structures. According to Sara Weaver, doctoral candidate at Texas State University, far more bats have been killed as a result of crashing into wind turbines than birds, and this is probably due to a bat’s reliance of echolocation while foraging. Weaver is working to find a solution to this particular problem, as she is a fan of bats, but she is not sure how to prevent bats from assuming that the turbines are trees.
In order for a bat to sense its surroundings, it lets out a high pitched squeal that bounces off of nearby structures, thus indicating a bat’s position relative to other nearby objects. Although this method of sensing the outside world may seem inferior to sight, a bat’s squeal can bounce off of an object as fine as a strand of hair. Unfortunately, when a bat senses the bounce-back from a wind turbine, the bat assumes that the turbine is a tree. Sometimes, bats will then proceed to land on the perceived tree in order to rest after several hours of foraging. However, as you can surely guess by now, the bats sometimes fall victim to the spinning turbine blades before finding a proper place to rest. Since bats contribute to the agricultural industry in Texas by consuming insect pests, pollinating plants and spreading plant seeds, researchers are hoping to develop a contraption that will repel bats from wind turbines. Such a contraption could save billions in the agricultural industry.
Have you ever seen a bat crash into a hard surface?