For years scientists have speculated that the unexpected number of bat fatalities around wind farms is the result of barotrauma-related injuries. Baerwald et al (2008) published a paper entitled ‘Barotrauma is a significant cause of bat fatalities at wind turbines‘ In this paper it was noted that “Air pressure change at turbine blades is an undetectable hazard and helps explain high bat fatality rates“. An article in the Telegraph newspaper also sensationally said that “Wind turbines may be killing bats by ‘exploding’ their lungs”. The barotrauma hypothesis suggests that a significant number of bat fatalities are due to internal bleeding caused by rapid changes in atmospheric pressure around operating wind turbine blades.
But according to a recent National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) study that was presented at the ninth biennial Wind Wildlife Research Meeting in Denver, Colorado, November 27-30, 2012, it appears unlikely that the pressure changes around operating wind turbine blades are large enough to cause fatal barotrauma. The NREL has been engaged in research related to wildlife impacts from wind energy development since the early 1990s.
Read more at NREL Study Finds Barotrauma Not Guilty which concluded that “Considering that the pressure changes around wind turbine blades at low wind speeds are insignificant and that there are few bat deaths at higher wind speeds, it seems unlikely that barotrauma is a significant cause of bat fatalities around wind turbines, and that the vast majority of bat fatalities are a result of blade strikes“.
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