As our nation continues to advance efficient and clean wind energy production, officials also remain committed to safeguarding wildlife populations, including bats, from potential issues presented by wind turbine installations.
The mammals are a critical part of the agriculture ecosystem, consuming crop-eating insects and pollinating more than 700 plants, many of which are used for food and medicine. Unfortunately, some species of bats—such as the horary, eastern red, silver-haired, and Myotis—are attracted to the wind turbines.
A team of researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) have developed multiple versions of tiny radio-frequency (RF) transmitters that will help biologists and others track and monitor bat behavior around wind turbines and for other environmental studies. The inventions, which range in size, are small enough to be used on the tiny Myotis species, with improved detection range and extended life.
Small, lightweight, powerful
Although RF transmitters are not new to bat-tracking research, the technology has been limited by its large size compared to the size of bats. PNNL’s transmitters are tailored to accommodate different bat species, each variety less than 5 percent of the bat’s body weight. The smallest transmitter is as light as 0.15 grams to accommodate the tiny Myotis species. Another version of PNNL’s RF transmitter is slightly larger for use in tracking the migratory behavior of hoary, eastern red, and silver-haired bats.
Commercially available tags also have a short service life of typically less than two weeks. PNNL’s long-range transmitter is designed for studying the potential landscape scale attraction of bats to wind turbines, as well as their fine-scale movements across one of more wind farms.
These state-of-the-art transmitters and receivers are paired with a three-dimensional localization algorithm to provide high-resolution behavioral information about flight patterns, which will help answer questions about how bats respond to turbines on the landscape.
State of Development
PNNL’s new bat-tagging and -tracking tools could help wind energy operators and developers shorten permitting time, while also benefiting the bat population and agriculture industry.
The new RF transmitters are available for licensing in all fields of use.