More Windmill-Related Environmental Concerns

'We're picking up 10 (dead) bats for every bird'

Comments by the co-author of a 2008 report published by the journal Biology Today suggest that large wind turbines may be more lethal to bats than to birds. “Here we're picking up 10 bats for every bird," Erin Baerwald of the University of Calgary told a news site associated with cable TV’s Discovery Channel. She was referring to the number of dead creatures found on the ground around large wind turbines.

Baerwald and her colleagues were interested in how the bats are killed, since, as she told Discovery, “bats don't run into things” (referring to their aerial sonar systems). It appears instead that their lungs “effectively blow up from the rapid pressure drop that occurs as air flows over the turbine blades,” according to Discovery’s description of the study findings.

Wind turbines have long been recognized as seriously deadly to birds (in California some call them “condor Cuisinarts”), but Baerwald’s remarks suggest that bats could be in even greater danger. In Michigan, concerns have been raised about other threats to bats here, and the potential impact of their decline on the state ecosystem.

In a 2010 report from the Capital New Service, Eastern Michigan University biologist Allen Kurta (author of a  book titled “Bats of Michigan”) explained the crucial role of bats in controlling insects that prey on crops and forests: “How will (their disappearance) affect our agricultural economy and forest economy?” he asked.

Baerwald's finding of 10 bats killed by turbines for every bird killed applied to Alberta Province, not Michigan, and the experience here may be diifferent. But if voters approve Proposal 3 on the Nov. 6 ballot, Michigan bats will face an expanded obstacle course consisting of between 2,300 to 3,790 massive turbines, on top of the 292 currently in operation here.