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Documents presented here are not the product of nor are they necessarily endorsed by National Wind Watch. These resource documents are provided to assist anyone wishing to research the issue of industrial wind power and the impacts of its development. The information should be evaluated by each reader to come to their own conclusions about the many areas of debate.


Date added:  November 13, 2017
Americas, U.S., WildlifePrint storyE-mail story

Strong geographic and temporal patterns in conservation status of North American bats

Author:  Hammerson, Geoffrey; et al.

Abstract —
Conservationists are increasingly concerned about North American bats due to the arrival and spread of the White-nose Syndrome (WNS) disease and mortality associated with wind turbine strikes. To place these novel threats in context for a group of mammals that provides important ecosystem services, we performed the first comprehensive conservation status assessment focusing exclusively on the 45 species occurring in North America north of Mexico. Although most North American bats have large range sizes and large populations, as of 2015, 18–31% of the species were at risk (categorized as having vulnerable, imperiled, or critically imperiled NatureServe conservation statuses) and therefore among the most imperiled terrestrial vertebrates on the continent [emphasis added]. Species richness is greatest in the Southwest, but at-risk species were more concentrated in the East, and northern faunas had the highest proportion of at-risk species. Most ecological traits considered, including those characterizing body size, roosting habits, migratory behavior, range size, home range size, population density, and tendency to hibernate, were not strongly associated with conservation status. However, nectarivorous bats tended to be more at risk. The conservation status of bats improved from 1985 to 2000 as human disturbances to roosting sites were reduced, but then declined sharply (7%) by 2015 due principally to threats from WNS and wind energy. Although uncertainty about threats from pollution and climate change remain, past experience shows that when threats are clearly identified and management actions taken, populations can recover.

G.A. Hammerson, NatureServe, Port Townsend, Washington
M. Kling, Dept. of Integrative Biology, University of California, Berkeley, California
M. Harkness, NatureServe, Boulder, Colorado
M. Ormes, NatureServe, c/o Biology Department, University of Massachusetts, Boston, Massachusetts
B.E. Young, NatureServe, Escazu, Costa Rica

Biological Conservation, Volume 212, Part A, August 2017, Pages 144-152
doi: 10.1016/j.biocon.2017.05.025

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Date added:  November 11, 2017
Europe, Greece, WildlifePrint storyE-mail story

Balanced solution to the cumulative threat of industrialized wind farm development on cinereous vultures (Aegypius monachus) in south-eastern Europe

Author:  Vasilakis, Dimitris; Whitfield, D. Philip; and Kati, Vassiliki

Abstract —
Wind farm development can combat climate change but may also threaten bird populations’ persistence through collision with wind turbine blades if such development is improperly planned strategically and cumulatively. Such improper planning may often occur. Numerous wind farms are planned in a region hosting the only cinereous vulture population in south-eastern Europe. We combined range use modelling and a Collision Risk Model (CRM) to predict the cumulative collision mortality for cinereous vulture under all operating and proposed wind farms. Four different vulture avoidance rates were considered in the CRM. Cumulative collision mortality was expected to be eight to ten times greater in the future (proposed and operating wind farms) than currently (operating wind farms), equivalent to 44% of the current population (103 individuals) if all proposals are authorized (2744 MW). Even under the most optimistic scenario whereby authorized proposals will not collectively exceed the national target for wind harnessing in the study area (960 MW), cumulative collision mortality would still be high (17% of current population) and likely lead to population extinction. [emphasis added] Under any wind farm proposal scenario, over 92% of expected deaths would occur in the core area of the population, further implying inadequate spatial planning and implementation of relevant European legislation with scant regard for governmental obligations to protect key species. On the basis of a sensitivity map we derive a spatially explicit solution that could meet the national target of wind harnessing with a minimum conservation cost of less than 1% population loss providing that the population mortality (5.2%) caused by the operating wind farms in the core area would be totally mitigated. Under other scenarios, the vulture population would probably be at serious risk of extinction. Our ‘win-win’ approach is appropriate to other potential conflicts where wind farms may cumulatively threaten wildlife populations.

Dimitris P. Vasilakis
Department of Environmental and Natural Resources Management, University of Patras, Agrinio, Aitoloakarnania, Greece; Directorate of Evros Region Forestry Service, Decentralized Administration of Macedonia-Thrace, Alexadroupolis, Evros, Greece
D. Philip Whitfield
Natural Research, Brathens Business Park, Banchory, Aberdeenshire, United Kingdom
Vassiliki Kati
Department of Environmental and Natural Resources Management, University of Patras, Agrinio, Aitoloakarnania, Greece

PLoS One; Published February 23, 2017
doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0172685

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Date added:  November 11, 2017
Aesthetics, Economics, ScotlandPrint storyE-mail story

Wind farms and tourism in Scotland: A review with a focus on mountaineering and landscape

Author:  Gordon, David

Introduction

1. In the course of public debate on contentious topics, especially when large sums of money and politics are involved, ‘evidence’ is often collateral damage. Statistics are more often than not used, as the old joke has it, as a drunk uses a lamp-post: for support not for illumination.

2. This paper is the product of frustration and dismay at the misuse of evidence, particularly statistical evidence, by a powerful pro-wind lobby to create a confused, unbalanced and complacent picture of the possible impact of the growth of onshore wind electricity generation in Scotland on tourism and recreation, particularly mountainlinked tourism and recreation. Hyperbole by opponents of wind energy in the face of this well-organised and well-connected lobby is understandable, but equally fails to illuminate.

3. Proponents of wind farms would have us believe that tourism impacts are negligible. Opponents would have us believe that the destruction of tourism in Scotland is nigh. Neither position is at all tenable. The real position is much more subtle and complex. That is an uncomfortable message for all sides in a polarised debate.

4. This paper is an independently-written attempt to assess, as objectively as possible, what is really known about the possible impact of wind farms upon mountain-linked tourism and recreation within Scotland. This is set in the context of tourism in general, not least because there is no data specifically on mountaineering other than that produced by Mountaineering Scotland itself. It is foregrounded by a brief setting out of my personal and Mountaineering Scotland’s positions so that readers can judge whether these have biased my interpretation of the available evidence.

The key findings are:

5. There is no simple answer to the question of whether wind farms affect tourism (or recreation). It depends on

6. The hypothesis that best fits the available, far from perfect, data is that wind farms do have an effect on tourism but the effect is experienced predominantly in areas where large built structures are dissonant with expectations of desired attributes such as wildness or panoramic natural vistas, and where a high proportion of visitors come from the 25% of tourists in Scotland who are particularly drawn by the quality of upland and natural landscapes, with mountaineering visitors prominent amongst these. In much of Scotland, and for most tourists, wind farms are no serious threat to tourism: the nature of the local tourism offer, and good siting of wind farms, mean they can co-exist.

7. The main adverse effect of wind farms on tourism, thus far, is displacement within Scotland from areas perceived as ‘spoilt’ to areas seen as still retaining the desired sense of naturalness. The GCU Moffat Centre study, relied upon by developers and the Scottish Government, estimated the likely level of tourism displacement across Scotland by wind farms to be around 1-2%. The estimates in the present paper range up to 5%. This difference is modest given the five-fold increase in onshore wind farm capacity in Scotland between the data points for the two studies (2007 & 2015).

8. Tourism in Scotland is not thriving, with standard indicators of tourism volume in 2016, the latest available consistent data, still below pre-2008 levels. Positive media coverage of a ‘thriving’ tourism sector, typically based on statistically selective press releases, is seldom supported by the full figures. In a competitive world, it is foolish to put at risk any segment of Scotland’s tourism market.

9. Five per cent of Scottish tourism spend would be £250m. This is well within the range of fluctuation seen in national tourist spend from year to year and therefore undetectable, even if it was all lost to Scotland and not simply displaced within Scotland. Since the true figure could well be smaller, attempting to find evidence in national or regional tourism statistics of the effect of any particular change is almost certainly futile. It is statistically illiterate to think the lack of detection of a modest effect in volatile regional and national tourism statistics is evidence of no effect.

10. But any effect of wind farms will be much less visible in routine statistics because the income is not lost to the national tourism economy but displaced and relocated within Scotland. Even the lowest level estimated – 1% or £35m – would have a marked impact if concentrated in a limited number of places. It is still doubtful if such an effect could be detected in routine statistics since much tourism economic activity does not feature in statistics (e.g. many tourism business are below the VAT registration level) and it is such activity that might be most likely to be affected by a local drop in visitors.

11. BiGGAR Economics has attempted to look at impact in the vicinity of a general cohort of wind farms and has found no effect. Setting aside several methodological concerns about this study, the sample included only one wind farm in an area where a tourism effect would be predicted based on the conclusions of the present paper. The postconstruction outcome data for this wind farm was confounded by continuing wind farm construction locally, making it impossible to separate any tourism effect from the effect of construction worker accommodation and expenditure.

12. The evidence on wind farms and tourism in Scotland relates to the present pattern of development consented under a rigorous planning system. Mountaineering Scotland does not agree with all planning decisions, but the process is certainly exacting. This makes it difficult to assess impact on mountaineering or wild land tourism empirically because few wind farms that might be expected to have an adverse effect have been consented and most are not yet built. Insofar as Mountaineering Scotland objections can be used to identify planning applications in areas important for mountaineering and related tourism, there have been only eight wind farm consents in such areas and only two were operational by 2016. When wind farms are refused planning permission in mountain or wild land areas the reasons given are typically landscape and visual, but an unrecognised side-effect has been to limit potential for tourism impacts.

13. Despite the clearly inadequate nature of the present evidence base on wind farms and tourism, the Scottish Government remains content with reviews of old research with almost no primary research later than 2008, despite the substantially changed context. That the government and its agencies have little interest in commissioning research to better define and understand the interaction between specific segments of the tourism market and wind farms is to be regretted and serves the public interest poorly.

14. Strategic and local planning decisions on the extent and pattern of wind farm development in Scotland should take better account of the potential for adverse impact in areas important for landscape-dependent tourism, and safeguard sufficient such areas in each part of Scotland. It is not enough to protect only those landscapes within the small number of National Parks and National Scenic Areas.

Published by Mountaineering Scotland, November 2017

Download original document: “Wind farms and tourism in Scotland: A review with a focus on mountaineering and landscape

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Date added:  November 10, 2017
WildlifePrint storyE-mail story

Impact of wind energy on bats: A summary of our current knowledge

Author:  Hein, Cris; and Schirmacher, Michael

Abstract

Since 2003, when it was discovered that large numbers of bats were being killed at wind turbines in the eastern United States, our understanding of the impact of wind energy development on bats has increased and consistent patterns of fatality, including seasonality and species composition have become evident. Yet, many questions remain despite the wealth of data collected across numerous post-construction monitoring studies. We synthesized the recent literature to provide an overview of our current understanding of patterns of bat fatalities at wind energy facilities in the United States and Canada. Our understanding of the impact of wind energy development on bats continues to be hindered by inconsistencies among studies and lack of publicly available data. It will be difficult to fully address this complex issue and develop sustainable strategies to reduce the impact of wind turbines on bats and generate wind energy without standardized protocols for field methods, estimation of fatality, and greater cooperation among stakeholders.

Estimates of impacts

With only a fraction of individual studies available, it is difficult to place impact of wind energy development on bats into context. Several attempts to develop cumulative estimates for a given region or year have been made, each using different assumptions and datasets. Kunz et al. (2007) estimated cumulative bat fatalities for the Mid-Atlantic Highlands would range from 33,000 to 62,000 or 59,000 to 111,000, depending on the projected installed capacity in the region by the year 2020. Cryan (2011) used the average 11.6 bats/megawatt, based on data provided in Arnett et al. (2008) and multiplied it by the total installed capacity in the United States, which at the time was approximately 40,000 megawatts, to estimate >450,000 bat fatalities each year in North America.

Two recent attempts were made to estimate bat fatality in the United States for 2012. Hayes (2013) followed a similar approach to Cryan (2011) and based his analysis primarily on the limited dataset from Arnett et al. (2008). Hayes (2013) indicated that >600,000 bats were killed at wind energy facilities in 2012 and suggested that this was a conservative estimate. Smallwood (2013) estimated up to 888,000 bats were killed in the United States in 2012. He used a larger dataset than Hayes (2013) and applied a common estimator and 3 adjustment factors to improve comparability among sites.

Arnett and Baerwald (2013) estimated cumulative bat fatalities in the United States and Canada using data from 122 post-construction fatality studies from 73 facilities. They calculated a weighted mean based on regional means and weighted by installed capacity for each year from 1999 to 2010, then calculated and multiplied by total installed megawatts for each year. Arnett and Baerwald (2013) estimated [that] cumulative bat fatalities in the United States and Canada ranged from 0.8 to 1.7 million between 2000 and 2011. Based on their assumptions and installed wind power capacity, this estimate was projected to increase by 200,000 to 400,000 bats in 2012.

We recommend caution when using any of these estimates and to articulate the assumptions and limitations when citing these publications. Huso and Dalthorp (2013) provided a critique of the methodology used by Hayes (2013), but many of the key issues could be applied to each of these cumulative estimates. In addition, Smallwood (2013) details numerous biases associated with individual studies that make comparing and combining data problematic. Each of these studies suffers from limited datasets that were based on public availability of studies and were not a representative sample of fatality across the region of inference. Although Arnett and Baerwald (2013) had by far the most data for their analysis, this collection of studies likely was still not representative of the entire United States and Canada. Yet, theirs is the only study to weight their estimates by both region and installed wind power capacity, which may provide a more conservative and accurate estimate (Arnett et al. 2016).

Even if more data were publicly available for use, another major challenge in estimating cumulative fatalities is lack of consistency in study design among sites. This, in part, is due to changes in turbine size and advances in study protocols and fatality estimation (Huso and Dalthorp 2013, Smallwood 2013). Nevertheless, varying levels of effort (e.g., temporally and spatially), differing methods for adjusting for imperfect detection, and different estimators used among sites are so large that estimates cannot be compared or combined (Huso 2011). Piorkowski et al. (2012), recognizing the impossibility of obtaining reliable estimates of fatality from currently available data, identified development of a standardized experimental design and generalized fatality estimator as the number one issue in addressing impact of wind energy development on bats. Until this is realized, any attempt to develop cumulative estimates or project estimates of bat fatalities into the future is problematic.

We suggest that each of these be considered an order of magnitude estimate; taken together, they highlight the almost certain large number of bats being killed (i.e., on the order of hundreds of thousands per year) in the United States and Canada. Given that bats have a low reproductive rate—typically only having 1 or 2 pups/year—and require high adult survivorship to avoid population declines (Barclay and Harder 2003), this level of impact presumably puts bat populations at risk. Moreover, many species were thought to be declining prior to the onset and expansion of wind energy development, including species impacted by white-nose syndrome (Winhold et al. 2008, Frick et al. 2010). Although population data are sparse or lacking for many bat species, current and presumed future level of fatality is considered to be unsustainable, and actions to reduce impact of wind turbines on bats should be implemented immediately.

Cris Hein, Michael Schirmacher
Bat Conservation International

Human-Wildlife Interactions. 10. 19-27.

Download original document: “Impact of wind energy on bats: A summary of our current knowledge

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