[Editor’s Note: Ontario has no mitigation plans in place and has refused to address this serious issue.]
By JENNA McMURRAY, Calgary Sun, www.calgarycsun.com
With the growth of the wind energy industry in Southern Alberta, the development of protocol to protect the province’s migratory bat population is now underway.
Lisa Wilkinson, a species at risk biologist with Alberta Fish and Wildlife and head of the Alberta Bat Action Team (ABAT), said Alberta was a North American pioneer in establishing pre-construction guidelines for wind farm operators.
Now, ABAT is working with the provincial government and representatives from the wind energy industry to create post-construction protocol in order to help protect bats, which suffer a high mortality rate near wind turbines.
Guidelines are currently being drawn up to help measure the impact on the bat population once new wind farms go into production.
The protocol may also provide information to wind farm operators about the possibility of putting operations on hold or slowing down production by changing turbine speeds if it’s shown too many bats are dying.
“(Wind farm operators) would know beforehand there would be certain mitigation steps required and they could evaluate the impact to their business if operations had to be slowed down,” said Wilkinson.
“We’d like to look at having agreements where they would agree to implement mitigation if required.”
Southern Alberta is an optimal location for wind farms due to the regular gusts that sweep through the area, however it is also a migration corridor for bats, said Wilkinson.
Colliding with turbines is one cause of death for the small flying mammals, however, the change in wind pressure created by the blades is believed to be another.
Wilkinson said producing green energy is very important for Alberta, so it is crucial that government and industry work together to find a solution that will both save bats and allow for maximum wind energy production.
ABAT is hoping to have the new protocol drafted by the end of the year.