The Bats and Wind Energy Cooperative (BWEC – www.batsandwind.org) is an alliance of state and federal agencies, private industry, academic institutions, and non-governmental organizations that cooperates to develop solutions to minimize or, where possible, prevent mortality of bats at wind power turbines. It is an initiative founded by Bat Conservation International (BCI), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (US FWS), the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), and the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). New members include the Department of Energy (DOE) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). BWEC’s Oversight, Science Advisory, and Technical Advisory Committees met in Austin, Texas from January 10-13, 2012 to review BWEC’s progress, discuss emerging issues, determine approaches and feasibility for modeling bat populations and mortality factors, and revise priorities for the Cooperative.
Research Priorities and Emerging Issues
Over the course of the 3.5-day meeting, BWEC committees discussed potential research priorities, tasks, and roles in the categories noted below. The discussion was informed by BWEC progress to date, existing research commitments, and high priority research needs. The priorities and tasks discussed were designed to inform Oversight Committee decision-making, and did not represent final decisions on specific activities, priorities, or roles.
Synthesis and Meta-Analysis – Given the information collected over the last several years, it was agreed that existing data and information should be coalesced and synthesized in order to answer key research questions. Specific, high priority questions articulated included: factors influencing nightly variability in species presence and fatality; correlation between pre-construction acoustic activity and post-construction fatality; correlation between post-construction acoustic activity and post-construction fatality on a nightly basis; and species-specific fatality rates.
Operational Mitigation – It was agreed that optimizing operational mitigation for minimizing bat fatalities and minimizing turbine downtime remained a high priority research area. The highest priority tasks identified were: drawing lessons from a synthesis analysis of data from existing sites; working to delineate preliminary operational mitigation considerations for regions not yet studied; conducting additional site-based studies; informing study design for other sites, as appropriate; disseminating information to stakeholders through webinars and other means; and incorporating a synthesis of weather factors and bat presence into operational mitigation synthesis reports.
Population Estimation, Modeling and Data Collection – It was agreed that BWEC should continue to support efforts to estimate, model, and collect data on bat populations. The highest priority tasks identified were: provide additional population data for those species most affected by wind power; and validate parameters for population models to maximize efficacy and refine models. BWEC’s primary roles in these and other population research priorities identified were to fundraise, identify partners, engage researchers with appropriate expertise, and collect data.
Deterrents – It was agreed that BWEC should continue working to identify how to deter bats from wind turbines, but that the high costs associated with developing and field-testing deterrent devices raised questions about whether BWEC should continue leading this work. Accordingly, the highest priority deterrent activities identified were: 1) advancing the video monitoring approach to turbine-bat surveillance being led by USGS; 2) understanding deterrent effects on bat behavior to determine what frequencies and periodicity deter which bat species; and 3) working with turbine manufacturers and engineers on further research and development.
Post-Construction Protocols – It was agreed that BWEC and its partners could make important contributions to developing and disseminating protocols for post-construction monitoring. The highest priority tasks identified were: review existing protocols and guidance information, and then develop protocols and methods agreed to by BWEC committees for the Cooperative's post-construction studies; disseminate these BWEC protocols; and support USGS efforts to refine, publish and disseminate information on the low frequency monitoring and density estimator approaches being developed.
Emerging Issues – BWEC committee members identified the below emerging issues associated with bats and wind energy. While these issues are not necessarily BWEC research priorities, BWEC should stay apprised of developments in these areas, and engage in them as cost opportunities arise:
- International Work – It was agreed that BWEC should expand its network of international partners, with the main objectives of providing capacity building and transferring knowledge (both to and from others).
- Offshore Wind – It was agreed that BWEC should inform and engage on offshore wind-related bat issues as appropriate, particularly in light of BWEC’s knowledge and experience regarding impacts of land-based wind development on bats.
- Endangered Species – It was agreed that BWEC should work to provide additional science and consultation for key issues related to bat species that are currently or expected to become listed as threatened or endangered.
- Regional Expansion of Wind – Wind development continues to expand to regions for which little or no data are available. BWEC could help fill data gaps, which might be identified more clearly through BWEC’s synthesis and meta-analysis work.
- Small-Scale Wind – Little research has been done on issues associated with small-scale wind, for example with regard to impacts of lower turbine height and more scattered turbines across landscapes. It was agreed that BWEC should be prepared to engage on this issue as deployment grows and opportunities arise.