Eco-friendly microturbines need to be bat-friendly, say Stirling researchers

Aug 01, 2012
Common Pipistrelle - Hugh Clark/Bat Conservation Trust

(Phys.org) -- New research from the University of Stirling indicates that small wind turbines, which are becoming an increasingly popular means of power generation for homeowners, can halve bat activity in their immediate vicinity.

The research, to be published in the American journal , was conducted by Dr Jeroen Minderman from the University’s School of Natural Sciences*. It is the first study of its kind to examine the impact of small wind ‘microturbines’ on wildlife activity and concludes that bats’ use of habitats may be reduced by their operation.

Dr Minderman said: “Previous studies have shown that birds and bats can be killed by colliding with large blades or that wildlife may avoid the surrounding environment, leading to effective habitat loss. To date, studies have focused solely on large-scale wind farms. We therefore felt it vital to address this knowledge gap by determining whether such effects are also applicable to small wind turbines, to improve planning guidance and deter badly-sited turbines in the future. This is particularly important given the recent boom in their usage.”

The Stirling team’s research, funded by the Leverhulme Trust, involved halting microturbine movement at 20 sites across the UK and examining the effect on bird and bat activity.

The results revealed bird activity was not significantly affected but was 54% lower in close proximity to operating turbines compared to those which were stopped. Whilst this effect diminished at increasing distance from the turbines, the findings highlight that this habitat loss may have undesirable consequences for bats if availability of suitable alternative habitat nearby is already limited.

Dr Kirsty Park, Senior Lecturer in Ecology at Stirling who led the research team, said: “Reducing our carbon footprint is important, but we also need to understand the implications of renewable energy technologies for wildlife conservation. Current planning guidance on the siting and installation of new small wind turbines is very limited so our findings will provide valuable information and help create more sensible and useful guidelines.

“Based on our results, we recommend that turbines are sited at least 20 metres away from potentially valuable bat habitat. This will help us to maximise the benefits of renewable energy generation whilst minimising potentially adverse effects on wildlife.”

She added: “This study focused mainly on just two bat species**. Further research is needed to understand the impact of microturbines on other species and the role landscapes surrounding turbines may play.”

Microturbines are much smaller than their large wind farm counterparts and used mainly in domestic and farmland settings. Normally they are installed individually and can make a substantial contribution to household energy needs. The increase in installation of such turbines is due to rapid technological developments and the introduction of financial incentives in the form of feed-in tariffs: schemes which pay people for creating their own ‘green’ electricity and offer additional bonuses for exporting electricity into the grid.

Explore further: Stranded pilot whale rescued in Cape Verde

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Why wind turbines can mean death for bats

Aug 25, 2008

Power-generating wind turbines have long been recognized as a potentially life-threatening hazard for birds. But at most wind facilities, bats actually die in much greater numbers. Now, researchers reporting in Current Bi ...

Wind turbines hazardous to birds, bats

Nov 13, 2007

Wind energy, a fast-growing sector of the U.S. energy industry, is taking a toll on nocturnal wildlife caught in the turbines, officials said.

Recycling wind turbines

Sep 21, 2007

The development of wind power promises much in terms of providing us with renewable energy for the future and wind turbines could be the most effective way to harness that power. Danish researchers now suggest that in order ...

Recommended for you

Stranded pilot whale rescued in Cape Verde

11 hours ago

The archipelago nation of Cape Verde is widely recognised as a marine biodiversity hotspot, not least because of the abundance of marine mammals found in its waters.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.