The turbines kill more than 500,000 bats each year, scientists estimate.
Wind energy is good for the climate. But scientists estimate that wind turbines kill more than half a million bats in the U.S. each year. Migratory species like the hoary bat are the most vulnerable.
Research by Winifred Frick of Bat Conservation International shows that if nothing is done to protect them, hoary bat populations could drop by up to 90% within 50 years.
“The level of mortality that we see is high enough that it could potentially cause rapid declines of that species,” Frick says.
But she says there are ways for bat species and wind energy to thrive.
For example, during migration season, wind turbines can be turned off on nights when the wind is low. Studies show this could reduce bat fatalities by about 50-90% with only minimal effects on energy production.
“We’ve learned a lot in the in the last 10 years in terms of the interactions between bats and wind turbines that can really point towards effective solutions,” Frick says.
Now the challenge is implementing those solutions widely. But Frick says she’s optimistic that by focusing on the issue, “we can have renewable energy and we can protect biodiversity.”
“I don’t think that those are mutually exclusive outcomes,” she says.