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DNV GL and CanWEA offer a collaborative approach to minimizing potential impacts to bats from wind energy

Comprehensive CanWEA Wind Energy and Bat Conservation Review released

Never have the effects of global climate change been as clear across North America as they have been this summer, from severe heatwaves in the eastern U.S. and Canada to record-breaking forest fires in the west. The wind industry will certainly continue to play a key role in combatting these effects through the production of clean, renewable energy. Wind energy is expanding rapidly and gaining public support in Canada — the country’s wind capacity now exceeds 12,000 MW and costs are at an all time low. What is less familiar to most, however, is the industry’s role in wildlife conservation, including finding ways to minimize potential impacts to wildlife from wind operations.

Bats, North America’s only flying (as opposed to gliding) mammals, are experiencing steep population declines in Canada, primarily from habitat loss and diseases such as the deadly white-nose syndrome that severely impacts cave-roosting bats. We also know that some bats, primarily migratory species that roost in trees, can fatally collide with operational wind turbines and other structures. With this knowledge in mind the wind industry, along with academia, government scientists and conservation organizations, has contributed to a vast and rapidly growing body of science regarding bats and how bats interact with wind turbines which has accumulated over the last two decades. Before now, this information has been scattered and not easily accessible to the decision-makers, such as regulators and wind energy developers and operators, who can actually affect positive change when it comes to bats. The Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) saw this gap, and commissioned DNV GL to lead an effort to pull together a detailed summary of what is known about bats and wind energy, including what project developers and operators can do to minimize impacts, and what technologies and operational strategies are being developed to mitigate interactions. The results of this comprehensive, three-year effort were released today as the CanWEA Wind Energy and Bat Conservation Review (“Review”), which includes:

  • Siting and Development Considerations – Species, habitats and landscape features related to potential risk, avoidance and minimization strategies;
  • Operational Avoidance and Minimization – Species considerations, general avoidance strategies, curtailment strategies, emerging technologies (deterrents, monitoring, integrated systems);
  • Compensation and Offsets – Habitat protection and enhancement, reducing the effects of white-nose syndrome, conservation banking;
  • Post-construction Monitoring and Estimating Impacts to Bats – Fatality monitoring design, sources of bias, review of available estimators; and
  • Adaptive Management Framework – Influence diagram, objectives and mitigation hierarchies, decision tree.

The ultimate goal of the Review is to provide the industry and regulators access to the most current information available regarding bats and wind, along with a framework for making science-based decisions. DNV GL’s experience as an independent engineer for the renewables sector and reputation as an objective, fact-based risk assessment company uniquely positioned us to provide this information. Because all stakeholders will be operating from a shared set of facts, the Review will facilitate communication and lead to better and smarter solutions for bats. Along with the Review document itself, several other downloadable resources and events will be available to those interested, including:

  • Fact Sheet – Two-page overview of the Review content and findings;
  • French documents – French-translated versions of the Review’s Executive Summary and the Fact Sheet; and
  • Bat Review Session – CanWEA will provide a forum at a special Bat Conservation Review session in conjunction with their Annual Conference and Exhibition, on October 23 in Calgary, for all interested parties to engage further on this important topic. DNV GL Senior Biologist, Dr. Kimberly Peters, will give a plenary introduction.

We are in an exciting time when it comes to wind energy expansion and breakthroughs in bat conservation science in Canada and globally. DNV GL has continued to lead the way in promoting responsible growth of the industry and, as a result, helped address climate change impacts to bats, other wildlife, and people.

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