Efficacy and cost of acoustic-informed and wind speed-only turbine curtailment to reduce bat fatalities at a wind energy facility in Wisconsin

PLoS One. 2022 Apr 8;17(4):e0266500. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0266500. eCollection 2022.


Current research estimates hundreds of thousands of turbine-related bat fatalities in North America annually. In an effort to reduce impacts of wind energy production on bat populations, many facilities implement operational curtailment strategies that limit turbine blade rotation during conditions when nighttime wind speeds are low. Incorporating real-time bat activity data into wind speed-only curtailment (WOC) strategies may increase operational flexibility by allowing turbines to operate normally when bats are not present near turbines. We evaluated costs and benefits of implementing the Turbine Integrated Mortality Reduction (TIMR) system, an approach that informs a curtailment-triggering algorithm based on wind speed and real-time bat acoustic data, compared to a WOC strategy in which turbines were curtailed below 4.5 meters per second (m/s) at a wind energy facility in Fond Du Lac County, Wisconsin. TIMR is a proprietary system and we had no access to the acoustic data or bat call analysis software. Operational parameters for the TIMR system were set to allow curtailment at all wind speeds below 8.0 m/s during the study period when bats were acoustically detected. Overall, the TIMR system reduced fatalities by 75% compared to control turbines, while the WOC strategy reduced fatalities by 47%. An earlier analysis of the same TIMR data neglected to account for carcasses occurring outside the plot boundary and estimated an 84.5% fatality reduction due to the TIMR system. Over the study period, bat activity led to curtailment of TIMR turbines during 39.4% of nighttime hours compared to 31.0% of nighttime hours for WOC turbines, and revenue losses were approximately 280% as great for TIMR turbines as for turbines operated under the WOC strategy. The large cost difference between WOC and TIMR was driven by the 4.5 m/s versus 8.0 m/s wind speed thresholds for curtailment, but our study site has a relatively low average wind speed, which may also have contributed; other wind operators considering the TIMR system will need to consider their ability to absorb production losses in relation to their need to reduce bat fatality rates.

PMID:35395032 | PMC:PMC8992975 | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0266500


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