Texas State student on a mission to save bats from wind turbines


SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN) — There was an unintended consequence of Texas adapting more wind-generated power from massive turbines: the killing of bats. Lots of bats. 

When wind turbines started to pop up in west and south Texas, birds were flying into the blades that are about as long as football fields. Then came the bats. 

“The estimates these days show that bat fatalities actually outnumber bird fatalities,” says Sara Weaver, doctoral candidate at Texas State University. 

Weaver is heading up research that could save the lives of hundreds of thousands of bats in Texas and around the world. Research conducted so far suggest that bats confuse the turbines as other resources such as trees. 

“Bats use echolocation to navigate for foraging and when they are flying around in the dark, they basically emit a high frequency sound and then they interpret the echos of that sound off of nearby objects. They can detect things as fine as a human hair.”

“Texas is the largest producer of wind energy in the nation and we also have the highest diversity of bats, yet we’ve had very little data to come out of Texas regarding solutions and studies with concern over bat fatalities.”

Part of Weaver’s research is devising a contraption that can deter bats from flying into the turbines. Weaver is working with NRG Systems and Bat Conservation International in testing these devices.  

“[Bats] actually contribute billions of dollars to the agricultural industry in the form of natural pest control. Other species in the tropics are seed dispersers and pollinators, so we really want to keep the bats around.”

Weaver has conducted her research in Starr County in the Rio Grande Valley at a wind turbine farm that is owned by Duke Energy, one of the largest energy utility companies in the United States. 

Weaver hopes to conclude her work by the end of the Spring of 2019. 

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