The Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) has developed this Wind Energy and Bat Conservation Review (“Review”) to address uncertainties regarding the interactions between wind energy development and bat populations. The Review provides the wind industry, policy makers, and other stakeholders with a scientific and ecological approach to supporting renewable energy production to meet Canada’s commitment to provide citizens with clean energy alternatives, while minimizing the potential for impacts to bats. This Review provides a comprehensive and objective summary of the body of scientific and practical knowledge pertaining to bats and wind energy gained over the last several decades, and provides a structured process for incorporating this knowledge into effective strategies.
Wind energy has become the largest source of new electricity generation in Canada over the last decade. Wind energy is a near zero-emission energy source that can help reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the electricity sector. At the same time, concern about the potential impacts of wind energy on bats has increased with the rapid pace of wind development across Canada, the United States (U.S.), and Europe. Whereas it is generally recognized that wind energy facilities pose a lower risk to bat population sustainability than other sources of bat mortality, including white-nose syndrome (WNS), environmental contaminants, habitat loss, and the ongoing impacts of climate change, the wind industry recognizes that wind energy facilities can have direct and indirect effects on bats and their habitats, and continues to seek ways to avoid or minimize these impacts.
Regulatory agencies in several Canadian jurisdictions have taken steps to establish guidelines and protocols to minimize potential impacts to bats. Although it is appealing to have standardized approaches to avoidance and minimization, these guidelines are often based on the findings of a limited number of early bat studies in the U.S. or other regions with different ecological conditions. The goal of the Review is to provide current information and an adaptive management approach that incorporates new research and technology into the development of effective strategies to conserve bat populations. Therefore, this Review has the following objectives: 1) facilitate sound policy discussions and flexible mitigation plans across the country, 2) provide avoidance and minimization, and compensation options for varying circumstances, 3) enhance existing information in order to drive science-based policy decisions, and 4) support updates and revisions of provincial and/or federal guidelines pertaining to bats and wind energy. It is anticipated that reference to this Review can better position the wind industry, regulatory agencies, and other stakeholders to make individual project decisions based on the best-available science. This will result in more efficient, targeted bat conservation, will provide the industry with more predictable project costs and expectations, and will allow Canada to continue to expand renewable energy development using sustainable, science-based approaches to project siting and operations.