Global efforts to address climate change have recently introduced a new source of fatality risk to bats, from wind turbines. Bat fatalities have now been confirmed in varying magnitudes at wind energy facilities around the world. Research at large turbines and wind farms has started to produce a knowledge base regarding impacts upon bats, though many questions remain. Little, however, is known about risk levels at small and medium scale wind turbines. Equally, research regarding the impacts of turbines in the UK is limited. This thesis examines the impacts of small and medium scale wind turbines upon bats. Planning records of wind turbines in Wales and south west (SW) England were reviewed. Approved planning applications for single and double turbine sites were found to greatly outnumber those for larger scale wind farms. The large majority of single and double turbine approvals were also for small turbines. The potential impacts of turbine presence and density on current bat roost populations and population changes were analysed, finding no impact. An estimate of bat fatality rates at small and medium turbines was calculated, using a trained search dog to locate carcasses. An average fatality rate between 0.81 and 15.15 turbine-1 year-1 was estimated. The higher rate accounted for uncertainty in the monitoring protocol. Only 3 bat carcasses were however observed across all monitored turbines, suggesting more stringent monitoring would likely confirm a lower maximum annual fatality rate. Bat activity levels were also compared between the turbine location and differing habitat types. A disturbance effect was consequently identified in proximity to turbines during high wind speeds. Finally moderating influences of environmental weather and habitat conditions upon bat activity were confirmed. Social Network Analysis (SNA) methods were used to analyse bat movement networks within a small grid of bat detectors centred on each turbine. Associations were identified between bats’ movement routes and habitat structures present at sites, highlighting vulnerabilities to disruption. Furthermore bats actively used the turbine area, potentially for foraging purposes. Finally by assessing bats’ activity levels in response to a turbine noise playback experiment, small turbine noise was found to have no impact upon bat activity. Planning guidance regarding bats and small and medium turbines is highlighted as a priority for policy development.
The Impacts of Small and Medium Wind Turbines on Bats
Title: The Impacts of Small and Medium Wind Turbines on Bats
July 01, 2016
Thesis Type: Doctor of Philosophy
Academic Department: Biological Sciences
Moyle, A. (2016). The Impacts of Small and Medium Wind Turbines on Bats. Doctor of Philosophy, University of Exeter.