The renewable energy industry is expanding rapidly, driven in part by concerns about climate change. Wind energy, generated by both onshore and offshore installations, is a major contributor, though it currently accounts for only a few percent of UK energy demand. Government targets for renewable energy generation and extrapolation from current installation rates suggest that there may be between 1500-2000 onshore wind turbines by 2010. Little evidence is available to properly assess any adverse impacts on bats in the UK or set such risks in context with the environmental impacts of other methods of power generation. In mainland Europe and North America, evidence of bat collisions has led to growing concern about the siting and operation of wind turbines. The most serious incidents have involved bat species that fly very high and for long journeys, particularly species on long distance migrations. In mainland Europe, noctules, common pipistrelles and Nathusius’ pipistrelles are most frequently recorded as turbine casualties. When assessing adverse impacts, we need to distinguish between (a) individual casualties and (b) mortality that affects populations. We are currently unable to say whether populations of bats are likely to be at risk from turbines in the UK because the evidence base is inadequate. Research, with support from the British Wind Energy Association, is now under way to address this issue. Bats and their roosts are legally protected by domestic and international legislation. The purpose of the legislation is to maintain and restore protected species to a situation where their populations are thriving, and there is sufficient habitat to ensure this will continue. Generic guidance on assessing the impact of wind turbines on bats has been developed at the European level under the Eurobats Agreement (Bonn Convention), to which the UK is a signatory, see Further information below. The Eurobats Resolution, under which the guidance was developed, urges all Parties to develop national guidelines on bat surveys and risk assessment, drawing on the generic European ones. Such national guidelines should be tailored to the situation in a specific country, and reflect the best available evidence at the time.
Bats and onshore wind turbines
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Natural England (2009). Bats and onshore wind turbines. pp 16.