Ecological impacts of wind energy development on bats: questions, research needs, and hypotheses



At a time of growing concern over the rising costs and long-term environmental impacts of the use of fossil fuels and nuclear energy, wind energy has become an increasingly important sector of the electrical power industry, largely because it has been promoted as being emission-free and is supported by government subsidies and tax credits. However, large numbers of bats are killed at utility-scale wind energy facilities, especially along forested ridgetops in the eastern United States. These fatalities raise important concerns about cumulative impacts of proposed wind energy development on bat populations. This paper summarizes evidence of bat fatalities at wind energy facilities in the US, makes projections of cumulative fatalities of bats in the Mid-Atlantic Highlands, identifies research needs, and proposes hypotheses to better inform researchers, developers, decision makers, and other stakeholders, and to help minimize adverse effects of wind energy development.