A great wind is blowing! The benefits of wind farming are seemingly endless: wind is cost-effective, abundant and creates jobs. Wind farms are also a reliable, renewable energy alternative, providing clean, renewable energy worldwide. And wind farm prevalence is growing, rapidly. According to the American Wind Energy Association, we currently have the capacity to power 20 million homes a year with wind farms in our country alone. Turbines continue to rise above the horizon worldwide, seriously putting renewable energy on the map against harmful contenders. But, as wonderful as wind is, it has its drawbacks.
The massive wind turbines used to generate energy effect the ecosystems that they are constructed in, sometimes disrupting local wildlife and their habitats. In particular, these wind farms affect bird and bat species due to collisions – known as avian/bat collisions.
The National Wind Coordinating Committee conducted a study and concluded that, “these impacts are relatively low and do not pose a threat to species populations.” Even with low impact, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has put guidelines in place and special permit requirements must be followed to ensure that wind farms operate in an environmentally sustainable manner to prevent incidents from occurring. If these guidelines and requirements aren’t followed, wind energy companies face serious repercussions.
There are many ways that renewable energy companies can mitigate avian/bat incidents to stay in compliance. The Bats and Wind Energy Cooperative concludes that bats are most active in conditions where wind speeds are low, and if wind turbines are deactivated during these times, it could reduce bat deaths by more than half. In the same sense, turbines can be deactivated during bird migration periods to prevent avian incidents. Energy companies can easily do this by continually measuring wind conditions and tracking migration periods to know when to turn off wind turbines. Other preventative measures include proper positioning of wind farms, effective avian/bat incident management and corrective action planning.
These preventative measures and others can be gleaned through thoughtful data collection. Gensuite provides incident management solutions to help energy industry companies navigate the avian/bat data recording and reporting process. With its cloud-based application suite, Gensuite digitizes the process of gathering incident details related to wind turbines post-construction, monitoring bird and bat fatalities and injuries, identifying risks and assigning corrective actions to ensure environmentally sustainable operations. The program also includes mobile and offline capabilities to enable incident reporting in the field with the option to add visual or audio attachments for further analysis.
For renewable energy companies in the business of harnessing wind power, recordkeeping helps to meet national conservation requirements and maintain transparency with the local community. A multinational electric utility company, and current Gensuite subscriber, uses Avian/Bat incident reporting forms to allow users to record multiple variables (including avian/bat type, gender, age, etc.) in order to understand the wildlife species that are being affected on their wind farms. Data from these incidents is then overlaid on GPS maps, giving a visual display of avian/bat strikes and associated trends for assigning corrective actions and compliance tasks and following them to closure. Gensuite solutions help gather important details to evaluate wildlife impact and make informed decisions for implementing a corrective action plan, which helps to ensure sustainable and compliant operations.
Wind is a good thing. It’s whisking this planet into a more sustainable future. In order to continue the good fight against harmful energy sources, wind energy providers must manage sustainable wind farms to create clean air and keep wildlife safe. Through careful planning and digital incident management, wind energy programs across the world can reduce environmental impact, saving the birds and the bats!