Evaluating the impacts of wind turbines on bat populations

Lead Research Organisation: University of Exeter
Department Name: Biosciences

Abstract

The UK is the third largest generator of wind power in Europe, with 584 projects, 4,366 turbines and four of the five largest European wind farms. Conflicts between wind energy generation and bats - animals with high legal protection across Europe - therefore have important implications for the economy and energy security as well as biodiversity. We are currently concluding research that has quantified the scale of collision and disturbance impacts and examined potential predictors of risk. This is the only work in the UK to address this issue at commercial scale wind energy installations. The purpose of the current project is to determine with stakeholders the practical applications of the environmental data and expertise amassed during this extensive and costly research, and to package these with the assistance of users into accessible formats to facilitate more effective management of the environmental impacts of wind energy production.

Stakeholders have emphasised to us that evidence-based decision making requires that they not only have access to the overall results of scientific analyses, but to information and guidance on which to base best-practice for future commercial surveys and monitoring. Because of our extensive research, we have available a unique dataset on bat activity and casualty rates at wind turbine sites across the UK, as well as unparalleled experience in practical monitoring techniques: this project will allow these to be shared with end-users. Specific outputs will include species- and region-specific reference ranges for bat activity levels, allowing stakeholders to contextualise and interpret the bat activity levels routinely recorded in surveys conducted by ecological consultants; Geographic Information System (GIS) layers to facilitate evidence-based decision making about cumulative ecological impacts; information on appropriate monitoring techniques; and assistance with understanding the potential consequences of developments for local and national bat populations. The direct beneficiaries will be wind energy developers and operators (industry), professional ecological consultants (service providers), local government ecologists and planning committees (decision makers), and Statutory Nature Conservation Organisations (SNCOs, policy makers).

Keywords: environmental impact assessment; wind turbines; bats; ecological data; wind energy

Stakeholders:
Statutory Nature Conservation Organisations (Natural Resources Wales, Natural England, Scottish Natural Heritage)
Local Authority Ecologists and Planners (including The Association of Local Government Ecologists)
Professional Ecological Consultants (including the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management)
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Department of Energy and Climate Change
Wind energy developers and operators (including all of the major energy suppliers as well as installers of small energy systems)
Non-governmental wildlife conservation organisations (e.g. Bat Conservation Trust, The Wildlife Trusts)

Planned Impact

The project will enable stakeholders to understand and manage more effectively the risks posed to bats from turbines. It will facilitate evidence-based decision making by local planning authorities, SNCOs and government agencies. It will also provide clarity on best-practice and data interpretation for ecological practitioners working on behalf of wind energy developers, and share practical expertise to improve the quality of monitoring. By assisting with the production of readily available guidance, uncertainties about how ecological issues will be dealt with will be reduced, increasing business confidence in the wind industry. Hence we anticipate that the guidance developed with our partners will significantly influence UK policy and practice.

Publications


10 25 50
 
Description We devised a strategy to help stakeholders interpret acoustic surveys conducted at wind energy installations in order to evaluate risk better. We also demonstrated that existing environmental impact assessments were poor predictors of future risk
Exploitation Route As part of the project, contributed to the development of new guidance on surveying and mitigating for effects of wind energy installations on bats. This document will soon be published by Scottish Natural Heritage.
Sectors Energy,Environment
URL http://www.ecobat.org.uk
 
Description We are have worked with the Statutory Nature Conservation Organisations to produce official guidance for developers and local authorities on managing the potential effects of wind turbines on bat populations. We have also developedg an online site (www.ecobat.org.uk) which will allow users to contextualise the ecological data collected at proposed development sites and hence understand likely impacts. This addresses a need identified at planning enquiries, and will help to provide a transparent evidence-base for decision making. The ownership of the site has been transferred to the Mammal Society to ensure the legacy of the project.
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Energy,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Economic,Policy & public services
 
Title consultancy data 
Description we have developed a model to allow users to interpret ecological data, based on comparison with data collected by ecological consultants in the same region. We are currently obtaining data from ecological consultants to populate the database on which the model will run. Note a major barrier at present is the susceptibility of The University to Freedom of Information Requests. 
Type Of Material Computer model/algorithm 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The statutory authorities are recommending that developers/ecologists use the model in formulating planning applications 
 
Description Wind turbine research 
Organisation Bat Conservation Trust
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution We have undertaken analyses and provided data to meet the evidence needs of this group in relation to bats and wind turbines
Collaborator Contribution There has been extensive two-way dialogue with the partners, including multiple face-to-face meetings, as part of the process of developing strategic guidance for local authorities and industry
Impact Outcomes are currently in production, with guidance due to be published in July 2016.
Start Year 2010
 
Description Wind turbine research 
Organisation Government of the UK
Department Department For Environment, Food And Rural Affairs (DEFRA)
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We have undertaken analyses and provided data to meet the evidence needs of this group in relation to bats and wind turbines
Collaborator Contribution There has been extensive two-way dialogue with the partners, including multiple face-to-face meetings, as part of the process of developing strategic guidance for local authorities and industry
Impact Outcomes are currently in production, with guidance due to be published in July 2016.
Start Year 2010
 
Description Wind turbine research 
Organisation Natural England
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We have undertaken analyses and provided data to meet the evidence needs of this group in relation to bats and wind turbines
Collaborator Contribution There has been extensive two-way dialogue with the partners, including multiple face-to-face meetings, as part of the process of developing strategic guidance for local authorities and industry
Impact Outcomes are currently in production, with guidance due to be published in July 2016.
Start Year 2010
 
Description Wind turbine research 
Organisation Natural Resources Wales
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We have undertaken analyses and provided data to meet the evidence needs of this group in relation to bats and wind turbines
Collaborator Contribution There has been extensive two-way dialogue with the partners, including multiple face-to-face meetings, as part of the process of developing strategic guidance for local authorities and industry
Impact Outcomes are currently in production, with guidance due to be published in July 2016.
Start Year 2010
 
Description Wind turbine research 
Organisation RenewableUK
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution We have undertaken analyses and provided data to meet the evidence needs of this group in relation to bats and wind turbines
Collaborator Contribution There has been extensive two-way dialogue with the partners, including multiple face-to-face meetings, as part of the process of developing strategic guidance for local authorities and industry
Impact Outcomes are currently in production, with guidance due to be published in July 2016.
Start Year 2010
 
Description Wind turbine research 
Organisation Scottish Natural Heritage
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We have undertaken analyses and provided data to meet the evidence needs of this group in relation to bats and wind turbines
Collaborator Contribution There has been extensive two-way dialogue with the partners, including multiple face-to-face meetings, as part of the process of developing strategic guidance for local authorities and industry
Impact Outcomes are currently in production, with guidance due to be published in July 2016.
Start Year 2010
 
Description Stakeholder workshops 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Multiple workshops held across GB to discuss the findings of the project and provide guidance on future methods that need to be adopted by policy makers (e.g. local planning authorities), industry and professional ecological consultants.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016