back to article Wind turbines put bats under (low) pressure

A research team from the University of Calgary has found that a large percentage of bat fatalities at wind turbine sites are caused by a sudden drop in air pressure around the turbine blades, the BBC reports. Reports of bat deaths at wind farms had previously been documented in Europe and the US, but quite why these generally …


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  1. Booty Inspector

    Forget the planet... warming, catastrophic crop failure and worldwide flooding.

    As long as the bats are okay, everything will be just dandy...

    Mine's the one with leathery wings.

  2. Ishkandar


    The problem with exhaling is that, while it reduces the lung pressure and collapses the lungs, it cannot reduce any gases in the tummy. To do that the bat will also have to indulge in a little jet propulsion which may throw the poor thing off its timing !!

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Could they use ultrasonics around the towers to keep the bats away? Much like you see in Texas outdoor eateries to stop the birds, Grackles, crapping on you.

  4. Arnold Lieberman


    So, we have bio fuels that cause millions of people to starve and further billions to spend a higher percentage of their incomes on food (thus contributing to global economic downturn) and now wind turbines that kill bats (presumably only when wind speed is just right).

    It seems that old-fashioned environmental awareness has given way to the carbon cultist obsession with reducing CO2 output at the expense of just about everything else (but obviously going nuclear is a step too far, unless it by countries with names that begin with 'I' and end with 'N' in which case it's only fair).

    Seems to me that we should stick to proven tech until proper lifecycle studies have been performed on alternative energy sources by people without pseudo-religious lunatics pulling government purse strings. First gen bio fuels should never have got into the commercial supply chain and wind farm designs should be required to offer protection agaist bird/bat strike. Big wire mesh in front of the blades, any one?

  5. Anonymous Coward

    Well nuclear it is then

    Damn here was me thinking this green thing was on a role.

    Wind farms and wave machines and sunshine and lolipops (sugar cane fuel)

    Now the greenies will be up in arms about the blades of death. Big industry is again killing mother nature all while claiming to be helping the environment. Conspiracies!!

    With oil and it's ever diminishing returns, we now have no choice but to build safe and clean nuclear power plants. Yes the waste is bad. But hide it for long enough and everyone and everything will be fine. The technology is mature enough now, no spills, no Chernobyl, no three eyed fish/human hybrids.

    Plus it gives us the time and the money to perfect nuclear fusion and our hydrogen economy. Hydrogen for the long journeys and Intels new WiTricity for the gadgets.

    On second thoughts, Lewis is right. Screw the bats! If they can't learn to breathe out, let Darwin take care of their blood sucking asses!

  6. Dave



    Performing a well-known internet search for your mis-spelled word gave only 3 results, including your article

    v poor, pull socks up after the hols!

  7. Justin Rowles


    ...a simple pigeon netting cage would be good for everyone?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Spot the irony

    " warming, catastrophic crop failure and worldwide flooding.

    As long as the bats are okay, everything will be just dandy..."

    It's just this sort of attitude that has led us to the point where we have global warming, looming catastrophic crop failure, flooding, etc etc....

  9. Del Merritt

    Tilting at...

    This is probably why we won't see Christian Bale as Don Quixote any time soon. Maybe Bill Clinton, though, since I hear he knows how to exhale, too.

  10. Alex Rose

    @spot the irony

    What's ironic is that you told us to go and spot something that wasn't there when you failed yourself to spot the tongue that was firmly in cheek.

  11. stu


    Surely the solution is to cover the blades in some sort of 'bat glue'.

    then, when they get stuck on, they can add their wing power.

    Soon we will have wind turbines working to full efficiency even when there is no wind!

    All that will be required to keep the bats alive is for us to dump, say, decomposing human bodies at the base of the turbines - as these decay and generate maggots and then flies, the bats can feed and continue to generate much needed flappitricity.

    nice and environmentally sounds solution imho.

  12. Kevin Kitts

    Go figure...

    wind and tidal turbines slow down the flow of air and water, respectively.

    None of these politicians and global warming people have probably thought that slowing down the wind means that storms stay over areas a lot longer (making them more damaging). They also probably don't realize that tidal turbines can block migration patterns, and kill certain types of fish.

    In short, they don't think, they react.

    If you don't believe me, then cogitate this:

    If you slow down the wind, you slow down the heat-exchange mechanism in the atmosphere bringing warm air up from the Equator and cold air down from the poles. This means that both areas will be slower to change; the polar and surrounding areas will become even colder, while the equatorial and surrounding regions will become even hotter. The central area between those two areas will probably become a magnet for severe storms.

    And you might just stop the heat-exchange mechanism entirely if you build too many turbines. If you do that, a global ice age will occur as the polar ice expands rapidly (cooling down the Earth and expanding even further).

    Maybe the politicians and global warming fans should research these possibilities before they have a knee-jerk reaction next time, and try to think of the long-term consequences of EVERY action they want to take, not just those of those who irk them.

  13. E

    @Anonymous Coward

    Well, actually there is a green case for nuclear: a while back researchers found a new(?) species of fungus growing inside the melted-down reactor chamber at Chernobyl. Radiation levels are high enough in the chamber to kill a mammal in a few minutes. The fungus is doing fine however.

    Therefore not building reactors deprives the Chernobyl fungus of it's ecological niche.

  14. Luther Blissett

    Poor little sods

    So wind-turbines are to bats like hyperbaric weapons are to you and me. Wonderful that we all can now go in an identical way - at the hands of fools and knaves.

    I used to live in place where bats would fly around the front garden at dusk in the summer. I would like to see green miserabilists with their fake facts and somebody else's agenda do that.

  15. Les Matthew


    Sounds like my fridge, there's been a few things growing in there that I'm sure would have killed me in a few minutes.

  16. Anonymous Coward


    Will the pro-nuclear posters please get yourselves calculators.

    We have at most 120 years fuel at current consumption, with consumption rising, only 20-30 years of which is economically recoverable at current costs. No-one is building the breeder reactors that could extend those stocks, and there is no realistic chance of finding any new cheaply recoverable fuel. Thorium, Uranium-extraction and Fusion techs aren't going to be viable any time soon, if ever (we only have partial solutions at best).

    Yes, the uranium can be made to last if we pulled our fingers out. Yes, nuclear (fission) has a part to play in tiding us over, but to rely on it as a panacea is about as sensible as playing russian roulette with an automatic.

    Lets make it simple for you. Your choice is a 2020 electricity bill of maybe £2000 a month, or a nearly insignificant rise in the number of animals killed (compared against the ones we are killing with habitat destruction). And then in 2030, the lights go out, and we're almost certainly back where we started.

    Mine's the one with the calculator and the common sense in the pocket.

  17. Ross Fleming

    @Del Merritt

    Is Don Quixote a cousin of Wile E.?

    The one with ACME on the back please...

  18. Anonymous Coward

    Funny maths

    > "fewer than half had external injuries that could have been caused by collision", 90 per cent demonstrated internal haemorrhaging, "most notably in the chest cavity"

    We'll charitably assume that 40% of them had external injuries (fewer than half). Does that mean that at least 30% of them had internal haemorrhaging as well as external injuries? If I'd been hit by a whonking great fan blade, I'd probably be complaining of internal haemorrahaging an' all.

    The one with the sleeve chopped off, ta.

  19. Mike Moyle

    @ Kevin Kitts

    Re: Go figure...

    Please tell me tat this was an attempt at humor (or humour, if you live on that side of the pond)...

    Surely you don't really think that the wind within -- what -- 300 feet of the ground carries all, or even the bulk of atmospheric energy...?

    Even if that were the case (and how many hurricanes, for example stay completely below 500 feet?), unless the mass of windmills were such that it made an impenetrable band across the hemisphere, once it created a pressure area of sufficient size and strength, the excess air pressure (wind) would slide around or over it. We get those effects all the time in the summer in most cities, They're called "temperature inversions", where air heated by pavement and the like is trapped among the buildings and creates a bubble of high pressure that forces winds around and over. That's that "bubble" of smog and haze that you can see as you approach a city.

    Is global heat transfer still happening, despite those bubbles...? You bet. It just moves around the blockages that we have built... and the natural blockages like -- you know -- those things that are really massively taller and wideer than anything that we've built... what are they called, again...?

    Oh, yeah! Mountain ranges.

    Now, when we start putting up a sufficient number of windmills that they start blocking the jetstream, give me a call; until then, go outside, find a breeze and chill.

  20. Anonymous Coward

    Batty talk

    I suspect Erin Baerwald knows little about fluid mechanics, and even less about wind turbines.

    When a wind turbine works at maximum efficiency, and the pressure drop behind it is greatest, a rather sizeable pressure wave extends upwind of the turbine, by about 1-2 diameters (ie. at least 100m). It's enought to start diverting air around the turbine, rather than towards the blades. As the wind speed drops, so the pressure wave and dip lessen. So it's either a choice between the bat being less likely to go between the turbine blades, or less likely to suffer damage due to a smaller pressure difference. One could argue that the vortex shedding around the blades could create enough local variation in pressure to kill bats: however, trees and buildings also create vortex streets, and also extract energy from the air flow. In fact, similar pressure gradients are found.

    I'd not dare to argue that there aren't environmental issues around wind energy. However, the renewables agenda must not be set only by biologists, nor anyone else who'd faint at the merest whiff of a Navier-Stokes equation.

  21. Mark

    re: Go figure...

    Uh, how tall is the atmophere? The exosphere goes up to 300km. How high does a wind turbine go up?

    Now how much energy is there per 10mile square of air going at 10kts? about 10^15 joules. Or a 10 mile front would give you a power rating *per 10 mile stretch* of 10^8 kwH.

    I thought that wind power only got a piddling little power out.

    Can't be making much difference to the airmasses going over them, can it.

  22. NRT

    All we have to do.......

    Is persuade a certain member of El Reg's staff to train the bats to breathe correctly when passing a wind turbine.

    See how easy it is when you think green?


  23. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Bug eaters

    While the thought of putting the lives of bats over pollution and energy concerns is a little strange, those little flying rats eat a lot of mosquitoes. Mosquitoes are a big problem here in Canada with West Nile virus and more importantly, they ruin camping trips.

    Save the bats, but give us clean energy. Well, OK, save some of the bats and death to mosquitoes.

    Paris angle? Mosquitoes suck blood and will most likely make you itchy the morning after...

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Stuff the Green Lobby

    Hah! This should drive the Tree-Huggers crazy. You want Green? No such thing! Whenever humans change the environment, the ecology changes too. We must kill something in order that something else survive.

    One of the best arguments for nuclear power I've ever come across.

  25. Alan Esworthy
    Paris Hilton

    @AC with common sense in the pocket

    Um, yes. The idea is to take it _out_ of your pocket from time to time.

    Why Paris? Surely you see the fast breeder connection...

  26. Anonymous Coward

    well, so far

    we've been told that the wind or lack of it is killing the bats; that we don't have enough uranium to do squat, and that we're killing the world using biofuels....that about sum it up? well, since i haven't seen a shred of proof for any of these allegations; I can thankfully ignore ignoramuses. yes, i know, i can hear those poor little bats now going "i can't breathe, I can't breathe...oh crap...i just ran into some big-azzed thing out here in the dark and I'm headed for a bad landing...." I would prefer to see the bats around eating up all the nasties, too....but the nose fungus thing is wiping out whole populations and they don't know the answer to that yet, either. let's not get carried away mr global warming fear monger. let's have some real facts with some real data (oh, you someone actually watched all those bats getting sucked into a vortex? erm, yeah).

    as far as long term fuels go...i with the frozen methane group from uranus.

  27. Sleeping Dragon

    Learn from this one.

    There will always be complication from any emerging technology, we just have to be a little more aware on what comes up on sonar.

    Even if it's a little hard to guess about these complications, we might just have to wing it.

    Maybe we need to pay for better scientists in this field, applying a little bit of BatFink - ing to the problem.

    * ducks for cover *

  28. Michael Miller
    Paris Hilton

    @Go Figure

    You know what else stops the wind?


    We must put a stop to this now!!!!!!!!


    Buy a chainsaw now!

    Help avert the world wind crisis!

    PH cause she's a Muppet too.....

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just an idea

    Stick one of those electric insect zappers on each turbine. The bats might keep away if there's less food about.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    100% Efficient Turbine...

    .....would stop all airflow behind it (which would in turn block all airflow infront of it) so is not possible. Turbinces in windfarms also seem to be perhaps 3 or 4 diameters apart. Windfarms therefore block a small % of airflow from a small %ge of the x-axis (along the ground) and a small %ge of the y-axis (up to the troposphere) so I think we can rule.that possibility out.

    The windfarm in Lewis got ruled out on bird 'nature' grounds (and the attitude that producing electricity to be shipped off to the unwashed masses in Glasgow was not on) not because it would stall the gulfstream.

  31. Anonymous Coward

    Re: efficiency

    Wind tubines themselves can't pull out more than 40% of the available energy. Fluid dynamics slaps a hard limit on that: the higher the efficiency of the turbine, the more solid it will appear to the oncoming wind.

    Much of the time, due to prevailing wind speeds turbines operate at about 10-20% efficiency (at most -- see While it's true there is a downward transfer of energy from the faster winds at higher altitudes, it's a negligible proportion of the total. This process goes on all the time with trees, buildings, the sea, etc.

    As for marine power, recent research shows that at most about 1% of the total energy in a tidal strait can extracted meaningfully. Which is bugger all.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    @Alan Esworthy

    >Um, yes. The idea is to take it _out_ of your pocket from time to time.

    <sigh> I did, that's the whole point of the posting. I guess I really should have said it's the one with the empty pocket where I've left the calculator for the pro-nuclear lobby because they obviously need it. Although it will cost 30p an hour to run it if we go with a mostly-fission "solution".

    Nice Paris/Breeder joke follow up though.

    Paris, because she's dumb enough to think Nooclear (fission) might be viable.

  33. Anonymous Coward

    We need more CO2 in the air - it is a critical resource to generate renewable energy!

    People believe the carbon trapped in the earth was once on the surface of the earth, anyway. By freeing the carbon, we are returning the earth to the state it was formerly in - a state where more energy was allowed to be recycled on the face of the earth.

    The world needs more CO2 in the air, so crops will grow 30% more quickly, and biomass can be used to replace Oil and Coal more rapidly (since it would re-generate faster with the slightly higher levels of CO2.)

    If the North Poll melted, it would not add an inch to the sea level, since the ice floats on the Arctic Ocean, anyway. (Ice takes less volume when it melts.)

    These anti-CO2 people just hate people to live and use energy provided by the Sun.

  34. Tim Compton
    Dead Vulture

    A solution

    If we build huge bat-proof hangars then we could put the wind farms completely indoors, so separating them entirely from the environment we want to protect.

    The vulture, 'cos I expect vultures get hit while heading for the bat carcasses.

  35. Chris Miller

    Running out of U

    There are many challenges (mostly political rather than technical) in expanding the use of fission power, but lack of fuel is not one of them. 20-30 years supply is a typical figure for most raw materials. If there are decades of proven supply, the incentive for new exploration is limited. As existing supplies begin to run out, the price naturally rises and this drives new exploration.

    It is this error that led to the books about 'peak oil' appearing in the 60s (and every decade since), and there are plenty of other commodities that provide similar examples.

  36. Anonymous Coward

    @Go figure

    You forgot to point out that tidal power gets its energy from the moon orbiting the earth, so by increasing our use of tidal power we'll slow down the moon, which will then come crashing down out of orbit and land on our descendants.

    The sky is falling, the sky is falling...

  37. TeeCee Gold badge


    So they need to open their mouths to exhale and then fart.

    Give this a few hundred generations and bats will have evolved into small, furry ramjets powered by the inevitable ingestion of small insects when zooming around with your mouth open at high speed.

  38. dervheid

    Nooclear (fission) might be viable?

    WTF are you ranting about, you moron.

    Nuclear Fission generation is what we currently have.

    Therefore I presume that you are terminally confused, and were *thinking* about Nuclear FUSION (like the reactions that power the Sun)

    Stick to something at your own level. Paris Hilton jokes, perhaps.

  39. Mark

    re: @Go figure

    However, because of nutation and the torque of a non-spherical earth and tide combination passing energy to the moon, it is moving away slowly from the earth.

  40. Mark

    re: Running out of U

    But "peak X" is about demand outstripping supply. If you can make 1,000 chairs an hour, you are fine until your market grows past 1,000 per hour sold.

    Worse, we can make a new chair factory, but we can't put the oil back in the ground.

    More places found means they aren't easy to find. Not easy to find means deep or difficult to get to. Difficult or deep means hard to get out. Hard to get out means limited rate of production.

    But if demand keeps going up, you have passed peak.

    And uranium is not in particular demand yet already hard to produce. This does not bode well for increased demand not making nuclear past peak already. And that's just replacing the demand for *more* energy with nuclear, not replacing current demand with it.

  41. Geoff Mackenzie

    @Can't put the oil back in the ground

    Just wait a few million years, shouldn't be a problem.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Polar ice.

    "...If the North Poll melted, it would not add an inch to the sea level, since the ice floats on the Arctic Ocean, anyway. (Ice takes less volume when it melts.)..."

    However, the ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica hold simply *vast* quantities of water (60% low end estimates of total fresh water on the planet) which *isn't* currently floating on the oceans. It's those melting which add to the sea level rises from thermal expansion of water as the oceans warm.

    Also, for crops to grow 30% more quickly, they need plenty of sun, water and other nutrients, and currently, the way we're going, the areas with enough sun will be dustbowls. That's if the subtropical clathrates and rotting defrosting Tundra don't tip us over the edge into a warm, dead ocean scenario where we all suffocate from the Hydrogen Sulphide produced from the anaerobic decomposition of the oceanic biome.

  43. Robin Bradshaw

    re: Running out of uranium

    I have the solution for this, its not particularly difficult given that as a species we have already succeeded in using uranium for power.

    What you do is this, You fire slow neutrons at thorium, the thorium captures a neutron and become uranium 233, then use the uranium to make heat and more neutrons for the thorium, all the uranium you could possibly want and more.

    Whilst there are technological hurdles to this they arent the problem, the problems are a lack of political will, If we managed to make uranium reactors some 50 odd years ago we can make a thorium breeder reactor now.

    How this for an idea, take the money the government are planning on pissing away on a national identity database and communications database and use it to research and build a thorium breeder reactor and once it work build lots more, lots of electric and no dead bats, its all good I tell you.

  44. Mark
    Dead Vulture

    re: @Can't put the oil back in the ground

    Awwww! But I wanna SUV *now*

    (goes and holds breath)

  45. Marco

    Northeast and Northwest Passage free of ice for first time

    Simultaneously, that is. For the first time ever.

    Now give Mr. Goddard some days to come up with a more or less logical explanation why this has nothing to do with global warming.

  46. cor

    @ Stu

    <cracking up>

    Have you (like me) been drinking absinthe tonight?

    </cracking up>

  47. cor
    Paris Hilton

    @ AC - "Polar ice"

    "where we all suffocate from the Hydrogen Sulphide produced from the anaerobic decomposition of the oceanic biome."

    Yeah. What he said.

    You mean that the sea will stink of rotten eggs instead of rotten fish?

    BTW: H2S does not suffocate, but is is lethally poisonous over 4 ppm.

    </pedantic mode>

    PH : well because scoring under 7 means she's an acid.

  48. Chris Shewchuk
    Paris Hilton

    @ Kevin Kitts

    You're an idiot.

    On another note... I'm glad it's my provincial and federal taxes paying for research like this. One of these days scientists might actually stumble up on something useful... *crosses fingers*

    Paris. Because she's slimy, just like bats.

  49. Steven Marsh

    Wouldn't a blade strike also cause hemorraging?

    What sort of, ahem, batty scientist, concludes that a sudden drop in pressure will cause bat lungs to burst?

    Wouldn't the bat have to be really close to the blades for this to happen?

    I don't buy it...blade strike I say

  50. David Halko

    @AC - "Polar Ice"

    Anonymous Coward suggests - "ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica hold simply *vast* quantities of water (60% low end estimates of total fresh water on the planet) which *isn't* currently floating on the oceans."

    Only 2.5% of the water on the earth is Fresh Water, we are not talking about "Vast Quantities"

    Antarctica is below freezing all year round - which means it is not melting the way the "chicken littles" are screaming, to create fear in people.

    The "fear mongerers" who are screaming the loudest are the ones who will profit the most from people.

  51. Mark

    @DAvid Halko

    How much water IS there on earth? A shitload. A huge shitload. Such a massive shitload that 2.5% of that is still a shitload.

    Oh, and put a pan of warm water in the frigde (at -8) and put some ice in it. The ice melts.

    And what temperature is the ocean at the edges of the polar ice caps? Currently +4 C.

    The ice melts.

    It may continue to melt more than it freezes until September is almost gone.

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