Wind farms may be killing legally protected bats by causing internal organs to “explode”, according to wildlife experts.
The Bat Conservation Trust says it has evidence that pressure caused by turbine blades causes the animals’ lungs to “pop”, causing immediate death.
Bats are a protected species in the UK, and deliberately injuring or killing them carries the threat of six months in jail and a fine of up to £5,000.
Conservationists believe bats are dying while hunting insects that are attracted by the heat generated by turbine blades.
They have suggested that even if the bats avoid the turbines, the change in pressure created by the spinning blades is capable of bursting their lungs.
Anne Youngman, Scottish officer of the Bat Conservation Trust, said: “People think that the danger is the bats getting hit by the blade, which does happen.
“But the danger to them is really barotrauma, were they are literally popped from the inside.
“It is reported a lot that birds of prey are dying because of wind turbines, but lots of bats are too.”
She said a dead bat was found under a turbine close to where she lives and had no obvious sign of external trauma, adding: “There are many risks to bats in Scotland, such as cats and other animals attacking them, as well as the weather. But when you add the wind turbines it could be the final nail in the coffin.”
In the United States, several studies have suggested bats suffer from barotrauma – a condition that can affect divers – when they get too close to the turbine blades.
Melissa Behr, a vet at the University of Wisconsin, said she had dealt with a number of bats that had no physical signs of trauma, but had suffered damage to the ears and lungs.
She added: “There are bats with no broken bones or other evidence of blunt trauma, that have pulmonary and middle ear haemorrhages which implies that they had suffered barotrauma.
“In one case 46% per cent of the bats that were seen had no physical sign of trauma, but 100% had pulmonary haemorrhage. The conclusion is that a large percentage must have died of barotrauma.”
Christine Metcalfe, an anti-wind farm campaigner who recently won an appeal at the UN, arguing that the UK Government had failed to fully inform the public about the negative effects of turbines, said: “People don’t realise that the turbine tips move up to speeds of 200 miles an hour. This obviously will have a massive effect on wildlife such as birds and bats.”
Scotland has nine species of bat, the most common of which is the pipistrelle, which is just 2in long.
The wind farm industry is currently involved with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on a project to determine the impact of turbines on bats, with the research due to be published next year.
Jenny Hogan, director of policy for Scottish Renewables, said: “Whenever a developer applies to build a wind farm, a thorough environmental impact assessment is carried out to ensure that any effect on wildlife, including bats, is reduced to an absolute minimum and is acceptable.”
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding