National Post, Sheila Pratt
EDMONTON — Thousands of bats die on southern Alberta wind farms each year, but it’s unclear what effect that is having on the overall population, says Canada’s foremost bat expert, Robert Barclay. Most of the bats die because their lungs collapse when they run into low air pressure around the tips of the wind turbines — not because they hit the towers or blades.
With wind farms now coming to north-central Alberta — including two new projects east of Edmonton — the impact on bats migrating from northern forests needs further study, says Barclay, a University of Calgary biology professor. It’s a serious issue, but with no accurate count of the province’s bat population, “it’s hard to say if turbines are killing too many,” said Barclay. “We know very little about the abundance and distribution of bats in central to northern Alberta.”
Barclay’s research, begun in 2006, uncovered the surprising fact that migrating bats are much more likely than birds to be killed by wind turbines. Thanks to their sonar bats can detect solid structures, but they cannot detect the changing air pressure that causes bleeding in their lungs. Birds’ lungs are able to withstand the pressure change.
Barclay’s groundbreaking research took place at Transalta’s Summerview wind farm near Pincher Creek in 2005. When the company noticed bat carcasses under the turbines, it asked Barclay to do a study. Barclay and his team found 20 to 30 dead bats per turbine. But that number was cut almost in half when Transalta decided not run the turbines when the wind was low and bats are most active, he said. Read article