Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Wind Power: Drowning Bats in Mid Air

Bats’ Lungs Burst When They Fly Close to Wind Turbines
Wind turbines may be killing bats without touching them: A new study suggests that the localized drop in air pressure caused by the whirling blades is causing the delicate lungs of bats to burst. While environmentalists previously worried about birds getting slashed by the turbines’ blades, researchers realized a year ago that bats are more at risk from the the turbines. In May 2007, the US National Research Council published the results of a survey of US wind farms showing that two bat species accounted for 60% of winged animals killed [New Scientist]. But until now, the bats’ mode of death was unknown...

...When outside pressure drops, the bats’ air sac over-expands, bursting the capillaries around it. Their lungs fill with blood and fluid – similar to drowing [sic], the researchers said [Calgary Herald]. Bats are particularly susceptible to the condition, called barotrauma, because they have balloon-like, expandable lungs. Bird lungs are more rigid and tube-like and better able to withstand sudden changes in air pressure [CBC News]...
Ugh, that's a horrible way to die.  We just saw about a week ago how wind power was being considered for the Chesapeake Bay region.  Does this mean we need to stop all wind projects?  No, but this is another factor that needs to be considered in siting decisions.  While I have seen bats out over the bay, I haven't seen many.  Maybe having wind turbines over water will ameliorate this problem.

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