Look to the night sky this time of year and you’re sure to see a bat. No, I’m not talking about Halloween décor — autumn is bat migration season! The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is allocating $7.5 million toward protecting these night-flyers from one of their most formidable foes this time of year: the wind turbine.
Bats v. Wind Farms
Hundreds of thousands of bats die from wind turbine collisions every year, especially during peak migration. More than just unfortunate circumstance, wildlife experts and bat conservation organizations believe there are a few reasons bats might be lured into the danger zone:
- They may be attracted to the bright aviation lights of the turbine
- All the bugs congregated around the aviation lights make for easy feeding
- Turbines look like big, giant trees perfect for roosting
Colorado’s own National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) was awarded $1 million from the DOE to research how bats interact with wind turbines and what can be done to mitigate fatalities.
Why Bats Matter
Bats are an indispensable pollinator species. Some plants rely exclusively on bats for pollination and seed dispersal. They manage insect populations, protecting crops from pests and pesticides. They’re also an important link in the overall food chain, serving as prey for other animals like hawks, falcons, owls, snakes, and weasels.
What Can Be Done?
Researchers — like the experts at the NREL — are experimenting with options like aviation lights that only turn on when necessary or sound machines that work with bats’ echolocation as possible solutions that will deter the bats from dangerous airspace.
If you’re interested in joining the cause, pledge yourself as a bat ambassador!