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Ultrasound technology can greatly reduce number of bats killed by wind turbines

Wind turbines are a great source of renewable energy. However, these giants sets of spinning blades also happen to have a bat-murdering problem that would put the Dark Knight’s rogues gallery of villains to shame.

Fortunately, a solution may be at hand, courtesy of a project involving researchers from Texas State University researchers and the group Bat Conservation International, along with technology developed by NRG Systems. The first two groups have been testing out the so-called Bat Deterrent System developed by NRG, and concluded that it can significantly reduce the number of bat fatalities at wind energy facilities.

The technology works by using ultrasound to jam the echolocation abilities of bats. Echolocation works by sending out sound waves to figure out where nearby objects are. When the sound waves hit an object it produce echoes, which help bats navigate or find food in the dark. Blocking bats’ abilities to use echolocation sounds like it would put them at a disadvantage and make them more likely to run into wind turbines. However, the opposite turns out to be true: With bats unable to use their usual means of navigation, they become disoriented and respond by leaving that particular area. The ultrasound field tech causes no damage to wildlife that encounter it.

“It is no secret that wind turbines cause mortality to bats,” Brogan Morton, senior product manager at NRG Systems, said in a statement. “This has become an increasingly critical issue as bat populations across North America continue to decline. NRG set out to develop a technology that would allow wind developers and operators to protect bats while creating more energy more of the time. We are incredibly pleased to say that we are well on our way to making this a reality.”

As part of a two-year trial, the Bat Deterrent System was put through its paces at the Los Vientos Wind Energy Facility in Starr County, Texas. Installed on only 16 of the facility’s 255 turbines, it nonetheless had the effect of curbing bat fatalities by an impressive 54 percent.

NRG’s Bat Deterrent System will be made commercially available starting next year.

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Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
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