Wind turbines are killing hundreds of thousands of bats every year — bats that could be providing farmers with huge economics benefits if new research is to be believed.
A new study by University of California Davis researcher Katherine Ingram claims that bats add $3.7 billion to the U.S. agriculture industry through pest control. As it turns out, eating moths, mosquitos and other bugs make bats a big money saver for farmers, especially organic growers, looking to cut down on pesticide use.
“Organic growers are often using pheromone disruptors to deal with these pests, and those are expensive,” Ingram told The Guardian. “So my study is hoping to answer the question: how many pesticides or pheromone disruptors do farmers avoid using because of the services of bats?”
Unfortunately for organic farmers, states and the federal government have mandated and subsidized the construction of thousands of gigantic wind turbines across the country. Wind turbines that are killing hundreds of thousands of bats every year.
Wind turbines kill between 650,000 to 1.3 million bats every year, according to a 2013 study cited by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. If Ingram’s research holds up to scrutiny, policies promoting wind energy are hacking out at millions of dollars in potential benefits for farmers.
For years, critics of wind power have pointed out that turbines, with their giant whirling blades, pose a threat to federally-protected birds and bats. Bats, like the Hoary bat, seek for tall trees to look for mates. Sometimes the tallest “trees” turn out to be wind turbines, which can kill bats through blunt force trauma or through barotrauma (severe lung trauma from the change in pressure the turbines cause).
The Obama administration was initially loathe to prosecute companies for killing birds or bats with wind turbines, but in 2013 the government fined Duke Energy $1 million for killing 160 birds at two wind farms in Wyoming. Since then, the administration has passed a rule permitting wind turbines to kill birds for 30 years.
Bird enthusiasts sued the Obama administration last year over its 30-year take rule, saying it wasn’t justified by the science.
The wind industry has also been much more conscious about how its operations impact wildlife. The Guardian reports the wind industry agreed “to begin idling turbines during the spring and fall bat migration peaks” to protect bats.
“To minimise any impact on power generation, the wind companies have agreed to keep turbine blades still on calm nights, when they wouldn’t likely be producing power anyway,” The Guardian reports. “Scientists estimate the move could reduce turbine-related bat fatalities by at least a third.”
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