Acoustic Exposure to Turbine Operation Quantifies Risk to Bats at Commercial Wind Energy Facilities

Trevor Peterson, Brian McGill, Cris Hein, Adam Rusk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus Citations


Turbine-related bat mortality at commercial wind energy facilities may threaten populations of migratory tree-roosting bat species in North America. Industry stakeholders and regulatory agencies alike are investigating strategies to reduce risk of population-level consequences as the wind energy industry grows. Bats collide with turbines only when turbine rotors are spinning and curtailing turbine operation at low wind speeds can effectively reduce bat fatality rates. Nonetheless, few quantitative data exist to determine appropriate threshold wind speeds below which turbine operations should be curtailed. Carcass monitoring is labor-intensive and does not provide information on factors linked to bat fatality rates on any scale finer than nightly. We tested whether acoustic bat data recorded at turbine nacelles could provide a more precise and sensitive measure of fatality risk to bats by analyzing acoustics, weather, turbine operation, and carcass data collected at 2 commercial wind energy facilities in West Virginia over 7 years. Each wind facility implemented several distinct curtailment treatments during our study, allowing us to compare fatality rates and acoustic bat activity across multiple operational strategies. We found that bat passes exposed to turbine operation explained close to 80% of the variation in carcass-based estimates of bat fatality rates and accounted for significant variation in raw carcass counts per turbine and probability of finding bat carcasses during individual turbine searches. Conversely, bat activity occurring when turbines were not operating had little or no relationship to fatality rates. We also found that patterns in bat activity exposure could be predicted accurately among turbines and years. Our results demonstrate that measuring exposure of acoustic bat activity provides a quantitative basis for designing, evaluating, and adaptively managing curtailment strategies. This is an important advance towards using curtailment to reduce bat fatality rates strategically while allowing for increased generation of renewable energy.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)552-565
Number of pages14
JournalWildlife Society Bulletin
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors. Wildlife Society Bulletin published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of The Wildlife Society.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5000-77506


  • acoustic monitoring
  • aerosphere
  • bat fatality
  • smart curtailment
  • West Virginia
  • wind energy


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