Experimental evidence for the effect of small wind turbine proximity and operation on bird and bat activity

The report examines the impact of small-scale (under 50 kilowatts) wind turbines on birds and bats. The authors looked at mortality as well as how the turbine might degrade or impair the use of the area near the structure by the resource.

Abstract: The development of renewable energy technologies such as wind turbines forms a vital part of strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. Although large wind farms generate the majority of wind energy, the small wind turbine (SWT, units generating ,50 kW) sector is growing rapidly. In spite of evidence of effects of large wind farms on birds and bats, effects of SWTs on wildlife have not been studied and are likely to be different due to their potential siting in a wider range of habitats. We present the first study to quantify the effects of SWTs on birds and bats. Using a field experiment, we show that bird activity is similar in two distance bands surrounding a sample of SWTs (between 6-18 m hub height) and is not affected by SWT operation at the fine scale studied. At shorter distances from operating turbines (0-5 m), bat activity (measured as the probability of a bat ‘‘pass'' per hour) decreases from 84% (71-91%) to 28% (11-54%) as wind speed increases from 0 to 14 m/s. This effect is weaker at greater distances (20-25 m) from operating turbines (activity decreases from 80% (65-89%) to 59% (32-81%)), and absent when they are braked. We conclude that bats avoid operating SWTs but that this effect diminishes within 20 m. Such displacement effects may have important consequences especially in landscapes where suitable habitat is limiting. Planning guidance for SWTs is currently lacking. Based on our results we recommend that they are sited at least 20 m away from potentially valuable bat habitat.

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JUL 1 2012
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