Altering turbine speed reduces bat mortality at wind-energy facilities

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Abstract

Wind-turbine operations are associated with bat mortality worldwide; minimizing these fatalities is critically important to both bat conservation and public acceptance of wind-energy development. We tested the effectiveness of raising wind-turbine cut-in speed – defined as the lowest wind speed at which turbines generate power to the utility system, thereby reducing turbine operation during periods of low wind speeds – to decrease bat mortality at the Casselman Wind Project in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, over a 2-year period. Observed bat mortality at fully operational turbines was, on average, 5.4 and 3.6 times greater than mortality associated with curtailed (ie non-operating) turbines in 2008 and 2009, respectively. Relatively small changes to wind-turbine operation resulted in nightly reductions in bat mortality, ranging from 44% to 93%, with marginal annual power loss (≤ 1% of total annual output). Our findings suggest that increasing turbine cut-in speeds at wind facilities in areas of conservation concern during times when active bats may be at particular risk from turbines could mitigate this detrimental aspect of wind-energy generation.

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