The Loh Down On Science

Death to Batty

The ugly truth about wind farms.

Ah, the wind turbine: sleek, graceful, GREEN. BAT-KILLER?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science

and the ugly truth about wind farms.

Power-generating wind turbines sometimes kill birds, who unwittingly fly right into the blades. Ew.

Bats detect objects by echolocation, and SHOULD avoid the whirling fans of doom. Yet more bats die at wind farms than birds.

Researchers at the University of Calgary wanted to know why. They examined one hundred eighty-eight bats killed in ONE NIGHT at a Canadian wind-energy facility.

Less than half showed signs of external injuries from hitting blades.

But NINETY PERCENT had internal bleeding--

The cause? Air pressure.

Around spinning turbine blades, air pressure drops dramatically. Doesn't affect the rigid lungs of birds. But bat lungs are like balloons, with flexible sacs ending in delicate capillaries. A large air pressure drop causes the sacs to overexpand and capillaries to burst , producing often-fatal "barotrauma."

To end the carnage, wind farms are exploring bat-friendly options, like running turbines during daytime, when bats sleep.

At night, bats are safe to swoop about and fly sickeningly into your hair as usual.


blog comments powered by Disqus