At least 15 bats have died at Yaloak South wind farm in Moorabool Shire since it began operating last year.
They account for more than 60 per cent of deaths recorded at the site, which is run by the renewable energy company Pacific Hydro. There have been 24 bird and bat mortalities confirmed by inspections carried out since the wind farm became operational, The Courier has learned.
The bat species affected are most likely to be the Gould’s wattled bat and the white-striped freetail, which reportedly comprise the majority of the bats killed by wind farms in Australia.
Pacific Hydro spokesperson, Adam Chandler, said: “The species recorded are representative of what would be expected in the area – importantly, none of those recorded to date were threatened or endangered species.”
There is no requirement for wind farms to protect bats that are not categorised as threatened or endangered. However, if the number of threatened and endangered bat deaths goes beyond a pre-agreed limit – called a “significant impact threshold” – mitigating measures must be put in place.
Of the bats discovered at Yaloak South, Mr Chandler said: “By way of context and perspective, this is a very low number compared to the estimated number of bats killed by feral cats, loss of habitat, other human activity, and the impacts of climate change.”
According to the Australasian Bat Society (ABS), bat deaths caused by reported range from 1.6 per turbine per year 1 to over 90 bats per turbine per year where accurate date is available.
There are more than 90 species of bat native to Australia, of which 43 species identified as being locally or nationally threatened. Of the two major groups of bats – usually referred to as microbats and megabats – it is typically only the smaller microbats that have been affected by wind farms.
Last month, The Courier reported that three wedge-tailed eagle deaths had been confirmed at the Yaloak South site.
The 14-turbine wind farm has been fully operational at the site 15 kilometres south of Ballan since last June. It is one of the closest wind farms to Melbourne, as well as being one of the smallest scale in the country.
The original proposals were for a 70-turbine wind farm, which were rejected due to concerns about the effect on the local eagle population.
In a similar vein, plans for Australia’s biggest ever wind farm at Rokewood in Golden Plains may need to be adapted to help protect the habitat of the threatened brolga crane.
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