AMHERST – White-nose syndrome has already devastated the hibernating bats population, researchers at the University of Massachusetts and Texas A&M want to protect migrating bats from the blades of wind turbines.
They are looking at creating a blade-mounted, ultrasonic whistle based on a bat larynx that would sound like another bat.
The hope is that sound would repel the bats from the turbine blades.
The project is funded by a $250,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy and a $62,500 grant from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center.
Paul R. Sievert, associate professor in environmental conservation, is overseeing the project.
He said the first phase is working with Yahya Modarres-Sadeghi, professor of mechanical and industrial engineering, and students in that department to design and produce the technology.
Then Michael Smotherman from Texas A&M University will test the device on lab bats to see if in the sound repels them.
“We don’t know how serious the issue is,” Sievert said. But as more turbines are erected, “It has the potential to be.”
He said the technology, “is more a precautionary move.” They don’t want to see any more bats die.
Zara Dowling a UMass doctoral student, is doing research on tracking migratory bats with tiny transmitters. This research will help them know the patterns of migration and if those patterns bring them in proximity to offshore turbines.
While the research is looking at offshore turbines and bats, the technology could be attached to turbines all across the country, he said.
The testing of the device will be rigorous in the lab to see how bats respond, he said. If all goes according to plan, the energy office would fund another two-year grant that will allow them to attach the devices to turbines blades.
The devices he said should not effect power production.
Elizabeth Dumont, in biology, and Matthew Lackner, mechanical and industrial engineering, will be advisers with the bat larynx modeling and whistle placement.
Dowling and Daniel Carlson, who are part of the Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship program, are also involved in the research.
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