Can bat activity make them vulnerable to wind turbine impacts?

Tiffany Thwaits

While wind energy is a clean and renewable energy resource, negative impacts on bats (Chiroptera) have been well recorded around the world. Despite this, relatively little information exists on South African bat species and how they may be affected by wind energy facilities. A bat monitoring program is being carried out at the Van Stadens Wind Farm in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. The aims of this project are to model bat activity patterns in relation to weather variables to determine when bats are likely to be vulnerable to wind turbine impacts. Preliminary results from May 2012 to Nov 2013 indicate that bat activity is highest during autumn and concentrated to the first 2 hrs following sunset. Temperature was found to be the strongest predictor of bat activity with every 1°C increase in temperature resulting in a 1.2 times increase in bat activity. This monitoring provides us with a baseline level of bat activity and species presence. In addition, such studies allow us to identify potentially important foraging of bats and make recommendations to wind farm developers on the placement and layout of future wind turbines so as to reduce impacts on bat communities.