Bat Protection Ruling Poses Problems for U.S. Wind Generators
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s decision to list the Northern long-eared bat as a threatened species could have an impact on some wind farm operations in the Midwestern United States.
“While the bats are threatened primarily by a fungal disease called white-nose syndrome, they are also vulnerable to a wide range of man-made hazards, including wind turbines,” Midwest Energy News reports. The FWS is considering easing some provisions in the listing for industries and activities like forest management, maintenance, and expansion of utility rights of way, which “actually could enhance bat habitat by adhering to certain parameters,” Uhlenhuth writes. But “the agency didn’t see that sort of potential in wind energy operations.”
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One option for wind operators will be to increase their turbines’ cut-in speeds—the wind velocities at which the blades begin rotating—to 6.9 meters per second, a speed at which the bats don’t fly, or apply for an “incidental take permit” from FWS.
“Given the exponential relationship between wind speed and power production—a twofold increase in wind speed, for example, could lead to something like a fourfold increase in power generation—a cut-in speed of 6.9 m/s would have a dramatically greater impact on operations than, say, a cut-in speed of 4.5 or 5 m/s, which the industry advocates,” Uhlenhuth explains.