Be it resolved on this 7th day of July, 2008, that members of the North American Symposium on Bat Research have expressed concern about fatalities of bats at utility-scale wind energy facilities in North America. Because bats have exceptionally low reproductive rates, making them susceptible to population declines and local extinctions, bat fatalities at wind facilities could pose biologically significant cumulative impacts for some species of bats unless solutions are found.
Worldwide, development of wind energy is projected to increase substantially in the next decade, and installed wind energy capacity increased 27% in 2006 and 45% in 2007 in the U.S. alone. While we recognize issues concerning climate change, the long-term environmental impacts from past and continued use of fossil fuels, and the need to develop clean sources of renewable energy, the fact that large numbers of bats are being killed by wind turbines cannot be ignored. There are likely to be biologically significant cumulative impacts for some species, especially migratory tree-roosting bats, unless solutions are found.
It is our collective opinion that the state of our knowledge of factors associated with bat fatalities at wind facilities is unsatisfactory and that there is a dearth of reliable information upon which to base policy and management decisions. We assert that more consistent, longer-term pre- and post-construction studies are needed to further elucidate patterns of bat fatality and to test ideas about possible solutions and efficacy of mitigation measures. We support the use of standardized protocols to improve consistency of data collection and comparability among studies. We also are concerned that the seriousness of the effect on bats has not been adequately articulated to managers, decision makers, and the public.
Based on the current state of the situation, we support:
- Multi-year monitoring and hypothesis-based research in regions and at sites with the highest potential for adverse environmental impacts on bats;
- Establishing standards for conducting site-specific, scientifically sound, and consistent pre- and post-construction evaluations, using comparable methods as much as is feasible;
- Development and implementation of consistent guidelines for siting, monitoring and mitigation strategies among states, provinces, and agencies that would assist developers with compliance with relevant laws and regulations;
- Conducting experiments at wind facilities in different regions to test mitigation treatments, evaluate their effect on reducing bat fatalities, and determine the economic costs of undertaking them;
- Development of methods to assess the relationship between bat abundance and fatality risks at local and regional scales;
- Avoiding wind energy development at sites proposed by developers that are identified as high-risk by bat experts using the best science available; criteria and standards for high-risk sites will need to be established for different groups of bats and any habitats deemed to be critically important to the conservation of bats on a state, provincial, or regional basis;
- Educating the public and decision-makers regarding the full range of trade-offs and benefits regarding all forms of energy, including wind energy; impacts on bats and other wildlife must be integrated into decision-making consultations;
- Coordinating efforts to ensure transparency and data sharing among stakeholders.
This article is the work of the author(s) indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.
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