Large numbers of bats are killed by wind turbines worldwide and minimizing fatalities is critically important to bat conservation and acceptance of wind energy development. We implemented a 2-year study testing the effectiveness of an ultrasonic acoustic deterrent for reducing bat fatalities at a wind energy facility in Pennsylvania. We randomly selected control and treatment turbines that were searched daily in summer and fall 2009 and 2010. Estimates of fatality, corrected for field biases, were compared between treatment and control turbines. In 2009, we estimated 21–51% fewer bats were killed per treatment turbine than per control turbine. In 2010, we determined an approximate 9% inherent difference between treatment and control turbines and when factored into our analysis, variation increased and between 2% more and 64% fewer bats were killed per treatment turbine relative to control turbines. We estimated twice as many hoary bats were killed per control turbine than treatment turbine, and nearly twice as many silver-haired bats in 2009. In 2010, although we estimated nearly twice as many hoary bats and nearly 4 times as many silver-haired bats killed per control turbine than at treatment turbines during the treatment period, these only represented an approximate 20% increase in fatality relative to the pre-treatment period for these species when accounting for inherent differences between turbine sets. Our findings suggest broadband ultrasound broadcasts may reduce bat fatalities by discouraging bats from approaching sound sources. However, effectiveness of ultrasonic deterrents is limited by distance and area ultrasound can be broadcast, in part due to rapid attenuation in humid conditions. We caution that an operational deterrent device is not yet available and further modifications and experimentation are needed. Future efforts must also evaluate cost-effectiveness of deterrents in relation to curtailment strategies to allow a cost-benefit analysis for mitigating bat fatalities.
Additional publication details
Evaluating the effectiveness of an ultrasonic acoustic deterrent for reducing bat fatalities at wind turbines