alternative energy

American Energy Renaissance Act

Development of energy resources in the United States is subject to many impediments from the federal government. To help remedy this situation, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-OK-1 have introduced the American Energy Renaissance Act which they say will “create good-paying American jobs, spur economic growth and expand opportunity.”

Since I have seen nothing about this in the Arizona Daily Star, I will reproduce the major elements of the act from a press release from Senator Cruz for Tucson readers. The Act proposes the following:

Leave regulation of hydraulic fracturing in state hands. Hydraulic fracturing is driving the American Energy Renaissance. States have proven they can oversee hydraulic fracturing in a responsible, safe manner, and they should be allowed to continue. The American Energy Renaissance cannot thrive if the federal government disrupts this effective framework and impedes the jobs and economic growth hydraulic fracturing is already providing.

Streamline the permitting process for upgrading existing and building new refineries. The operating capacity of U.S. refineries has remained essentially stagnant for three decades. In order for the American Energy Renaissance to reach its full potential, barriers must be removed from expanding or constructing new refineries in the United States and the private sector jobs they will create.

Phase out and repeal the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) over five years. The RFS has proven unworkable and costly. Its mandate that an increasing percentage of renewable biofuels be blended into gasoline and diesel each year ignores the reality there are insufficient amounts of some biofuels to meet the standard. It imposes significant costs, and offers few, if any, benefits. The RFS should be phased out so producers and refiners can focus on maximizing domestic resource potential.

Immediately approve and allow the private sector to build the Keystone pipeline. According to the U.S. State Department, constructing the Keystone XL pipeline could result in 42,000 jobs. Keystone has undergone five environmental reviews since its initial application in 2008, and none has found a significant negative impact on the environment. President Obama’s former Energy Secretary admitted that the decision as whether to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline is a political one, and not a decision founded in science.

Exclude greenhouse gases from regulation by the EPA and other federal agencies. Proposals to regulate greenhouse gases are very expensive and threaten hundreds of thousands of jobs. The authority to regulate such gases should only occur with explicit authority from Congress.

Stop certain EPA regulations that will adversely impact coal and electric power plants. In 2008, President Obama promised to bankrupt coal. As of October 2014, there were already 381 coal units closed or closing in 36 states because of EPA policies. These 381 closures amount to a total of more than 60,100 megawatts of electricity generation no longer being available. Job losses as a result of coal units being affected by EPA regulations could amount to more than 50,000 direct jobs in the coal, utility, and rail industries, and an indirect job loss figure exceeding 250,000.

Require Congress to approve and the President to sign EPA regulations that will have a negative job impact, rather than allowing them to hide behind bureaucrats who are assumed to be responsible for them now. Certain planned and proposed EPA regulations could cost more than 2 million jobs. Increasing regulatory restrictions more broadly could cost nearly 2.8 million jobs over the next decade.

Expand energy development on federal lands by providing states the option of leasing, permitting and regulating energy resources (oil and gas, wind and solar) on federal lands within their borders. Onshore and offshore federal land lands have about 43 percent of America’s proven oil reserves and 25 percent of natural gas reserves, but not all of the land is available for energy development. Leasing and producing oil and natural gas on federal land could create more than 1 million jobs.

For those states opting not to self-regulate, federal leasing, permitting, and regulating must be reformed by:
Streamlining permitting and expanding development on federal lands by requiring decisions regarding drilling permit applications to be made within 30 days (which can be extended), requiring an explanation for any denial, and deeming applications to be approved if no decision has been made within 60 days, unless there are existing incomplete environmental reviews.
Improving certainty in the leasing and development process by instituting a presumption that certain land will be leased and by prohibiting the government from withdrawing a lease for any energy project, unless there is a violation of terms of the lease.

Expand energy development in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska and on Indian Lands. The mean estimate for conventional oil in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska is 895 million barrels of oil and 52.8 trillion cubic feet of gas. West of the Mississippi River, Indian reservations contain almost 30 percent of the nation’s coal reserves, 50 percent of potential uranium reserves, and 20 percent of known oil and gas reserves.

Open up the Coastal Plain of Alaska (ANWR) for development. ANWR consists of 19 million acres in northeast Alaska. Its 1.5-million-acre Coastal Plain is viewed as a promising onshore oil prospect with potentially 7 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil.

Expand the offshore areas of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) available for development. Despite the potential for significant oil and gas development off the coasts of the United States, the Obama Administration has severely limited access to such resources by essentially prohibiting energy exploration and development off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

Streamline the permitting process for additional offshore exploration. Regulatory barriers to obtain leases and permits to explore and develop offshore areas of the Outer Continental Shelf should be removed by requiring lease sales within 180 days of enactment of the legislation and every 270 days thereafter, and requiring approval or disapproval of drilling permits no later than 20 days after an application is submitted.

Expand LNG exports by facilitating permits. As of March 3, 2015, the Dept. of Energy had approved only nine export permits to non-Free Trade Agreement countries. More than twenty applications are currently pending.

End the crude oil export ban. Last year, U.S. crude oil production increased 27 percent but many American refineries cannot handle the additional crude for technical and capacity reasons. The United States is missing out on export opportunities that could produce good paying private sector jobs in the United States.

Prevent excessively broad environmental review of coal export terminals. As the EPA makes it harder to use coal as a source of energy for electricity in the United States, there are opportunities to export coal to other nations. Removing excessive environmental reviews can help promote coal exports that will help keep coal jobs in the United States.

Direct all additional revenues generated by exploration and drilling on federal lands (excluding the share allocated to the states) exclusively to national debt reduction. The U.S. national debt was approximately $18.2 trillion in December 2014. As we free the development of U.S. natural resources to spur economic and job growth, we should prevent revenues from being used to further expand government programs and instead use it to free taxpayers from the debt burden that hampers the nation’s incredible potential.

That is the crux of the bill. Read the entire bill here.

Of course, these sensible provisions are very contrary to Obama policy and the orthodoxy of radical environmentalists. It will be interesting to see if this bill gets anywhere.

See also:

How President Obama has increased our energy costs

Obama Clueless on Energy – Part 2

Obama Clueless on Energy – Part 1

Obama says Drill Baby Drill

Obama administration still clueless on energy

Obama, the Keystone Cop-out

Obama’s Climate Action Plan is Clueless and Dangerous

Obama’s April Fools Joke

German wind power fails – a cautionary tale

Germany is a leader in electricity production from wind turbines. In 2014, Germany had 25,000 wind turbines installed. Their total installed capacity rating is 39,612 MW. But as Pierre Gosselin reports, these turbines actually produced an average of only 5,868 MW or just 14.8% of rated capacity. Even wind turbine installations in the windy North Sea are delivering only 20% of rated capacity (see report here).

This story shows the folly of replacing fossil-fuel or nuclear generation of electricity with solar and wind. In Europe as a whole, infrastructure investment in renewable energy (wind, solar, biomass) has consumed 600 billion Euros with little to show for it except high electricity prices (Source).

The graph below shows the intermittent nature of wind energy, the light blue area is the total generating capacity; the dark blue is actual electricity produced.

German wind power 2014

You can see the extreme volatility of wind power. Such volatility plays havoc with the electric grid and makes fossil fuel backup generation more expensive to run because it must constantly change production rate; it cannot be run efficiently. Those constant changes cause production of more emissions than would be produced without having to contend with the quirky wind power contribution.

Gosselin (a US citizen living in Germany, who received a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Arizona) notes that “Resistance to wind power in Germany is snowballing.” “The turbines, which the German government says will become the ‘workhorse’ of the German power industry, ran at over 50% of their rated capacity only for 461 hours [out of a possible 8,766], or just 5.2% of the time.”

In addition to the unreliable power produced by allegedly “green” wind power, it is becoming increasingly obvious that wind generation is taking a large toll on wildlife and has deleterious effects on human health.

See: The effect of wind turbines on human health – “People who live near wind turbines complain of symptoms that include some combination of the following: difficulty sleeping, fatigue, depression, irritability, aggressiveness, cognitive dysfunction, chest pain/pressure, headaches, joint pain, skin irritations, nausea, dizziness, tinnitus, and stress. These symptoms have been attributed to the pressure (sound) waves that wind turbines generate in the form of noise and infrasound.

Wind turbines versus wildlife – “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and American Bird Conservancy say wind turbines kill 440,000 bald and golden eagles, hawks, falcons, owls, cranes, egrets, geese and other birds every year in the United States, along with countless insect-eating bats.

Wind turbines killed 600000 bats last year

Wind farms raise local and regional temperatures

Winds farms decrease weather radar ability to track storms

UPDATE: In a separate post, Gosselin adds in solar power and shows that in the last 30 days, in the dead of winter, both wind and solar power went AWOL three times.


Top Google Engineers Say Renewable Energy “Simply won’t work”

Google Corporation has been in the forefront of developing renewable energy projects. One of their goals was to run Google completely by renewable energy.

Google is part owner of the infamous Ivanpah solar station, west of Las Vegas, the plant that fries birds and needs to use natural gas to produce electricity, but even with use of natural gas the plant produces only one quarter of the advertised electricity. See these stories:

Avian mortality from solar farms

Ivanpah solar plant wants to burn more natural gas

Ivanpah solar seeks government grant to pay off government loan

A few years ago, Google started a project called RE<C, which aimed to develop renewable energy sources that would generate electricity more cheaply than coal-fired power plants do.

“At the start of RE<C, we had shared the attitude of many stalwart environmentalists: We felt that with steady improvements to today’s renewable energy technologies, our society could stave off catastrophic climate change. We now know that to be a false hope… As we reflected on the project, we came to the conclusion that even if Google and others had led the way toward a wholesale adoption of renewable energy, that switch would not have resulted in significant reductions of carbon dioxide emissions.” (Source)

Now, after 4 years of effort, Google engineers who led the program conclude the research effort by Google corporation has been a complete failure, renewable energy “simply won’t work.”

“The key problem appears to be that the cost of manufacturing the components of the renewable power facilities is far too close to the total recoverable energy – the facilities never, or just barely, produce enough energy to balance the budget of what was consumed in their construction. This leads to a runaway cycle of constructing more and more renewable plants simply to produce the energy required to manufacture and maintain renewable energy plants – an obvious practical absurdity.” (Source)

The State of Arizona has not yet realized that renewable energy “simply won’t work.” They persist in imposing the State’s Renewable Energy Mandate and Tariff which has raised our electricity rates. December is a good time to write to your state legislators asking them to repeal the mandate. In December the members are composing new legislation for the upcoming legislative session.

For some background and ammunition to repeal the mandate, see my ADI article:

Five reasons Arizona should repeal its renewable energy standards mandate

British study shows wind power generates only 2 percent of rated capacity

A new study by The Scientific Alliance and the Adam Smith Institute claims that electricity generated by wind turbines throughout the UK amounts to only two percent of the combined turbine rated capacity.

“This study provides a rigorous quantitative assessment of wind variability and intermittency based on nine years of hourly measurements of wind speed on 22 sites across the country.” The researchers obtained wind data and calculated how much electricity would have been produced from modern wind turbines. They had to do the study this way because the wind industry does not make actual production figures public even though the industry is heavily subsidized by taxpayers.

Results of the modeling shows that power output from wind turbines would have the following pattern over the period of one year (8760 hours):

Power exceeds 90 % of available power (rated capacity) for only 17 hours per year.
Power exceeds 80 % of available power for 163 hours.
Power is below 20 % of available power for 3,448 hours (20 weeks).
Power is below 10 % of available power for 1,519 hours (9 weeks).
“Although it is claimed that the wind is always blowing somewhere in the UK, the model reveals this ‘guaranteed’ output is only sufficient to generate something under 2 % of nominal output.”

“Long gaps in significant wind production occur in all seasons.”

“The preceding deficiencies suggest the model wind fleet would require an equal sized fossil fuel generation fleet operating alongside it, especially during winter months.”

“…the model wind fleet reveals wind energy production is unlike that of all conventional fossil fueled or pumped storage plants; it does not follow grid demand on diurnal or even seasonal time patterns. Wind generation will therefore make heavy claims on the UK’s response and reserve market.”

See full report here.

The rationale of replacing fossil fuel generated electricity with wind or solar generation is that it will decrease dependence of foreign sources and reduce carbon dioxide emissions. But, in a 2011 study, Richard York of the University of Oregon studied the use of alternative energy in 130 countries to assess the contribution of various forms of non-fossil fuels. The study showed “that the average pattern across most nations of the world over the past fifty years is one where each unit of total national energy use from non-fossil-fuel sources displaced less than one-quarter of a unit of fossil-fuel energy use and, focusing specifically on electricity, each unit of electricity generated by non-fossil-fuel sources displaced less than one-tenth of a unit of fossil-fuel-generated electricity.”

A 2010 M.I.T. study found that wind farms raise the local temperatures by almost two degrees F and raise electricity prices because the wind farms require expensive backup generation.

See also:
Wind turbines versus wildlife
Wind turbines killed 600000 bats last year
Big Wind gets “get out of jail free card” from Obama Administration
Winds farms decrease weather radar ability to track storms

A New Type of Molten Salt Nuclear Reactor Safer and more versatile than standard nuclear reactors

A new company, Transatomic Power, formed in 2011 by two M.I.T. PhD. graduates proposes to build a new type of molten salt nuclear reactor. Transatomic has just received a $2 million grant from Founders Fund, a private venture capital company. The money will be used to test and verify the corrosion resistance of metals that their design employs in the reactor core and piping, as well as modeling the reactor design. Molten salt reactors where experimented with by Oak Ridge National Laboratory back in the 1950s and 1960s, but they never produced a commercial application. The new design uses different “salt” and different moderators than the old Oak Ridge design.

By the way, “salt” is not table salt, it is a lithium-fluorine (LiF) mixture in which uranium or thorium is dissolved.

Claimed advantages:

Molten salt reactors extract 20 times more energy from uranium than a conventional reactor, producing a far smaller and far less radioactive final waste product. And this type of reactor can use “spent” uranium from conventional reactors as fuel, thus solving a major disposal problem. Because of government ineptness and environmental activism, most spent fuel from nuclear reactors is “temporarily” stored near the reactors themselves, awaiting final burial. Conventional reactors require weapons-grade uranium (about 33% U-235) whereas the salt reactor can use lower grades (about 2% U-235). Molten salt reactors can also use thorium. This eliminates the potential for terrorists stealing weapons-grade uranium.

Salt reactors don’t require cooling water and therefore are safer than standard reactors because there is no chance of producing explosive hydrogen or steam. “ The main concern in nuclear power is to avoid a steam explosion, fire, or containment breach that could allow the release of radioactive materials outside the plant and affect public health.” If there is a breech in a salt reactor, the salt freezes solid and contains the radioactive material.

In conventional nuclear reactors, the uranium rods are surrounded by water which acts as a coolant and moderator. If the containment vessel is breeched, the heat can produce explosive hydrogen. Molten salt reactors are self-stabilizing because the uranium is dissolved in the salt. “As the core temperature increases, the salt expands. This expansion spreads the fuel volumetrically and slows the rate of fission. This stabilization occurs even without operator action.” “The main technical change we make is to change the moderator and fuel salt used in previous molten salt reactors to a zirconium hydride moderator, with a LiF-based fuel salt.”

“Transatomic Power’s design also enables extremely high burnups – up to 96% – over long time periods. The reactor can therefore run for decades and slowly consume both the actinide waste in its initial fuel load and the actinides that are continuously generated from power operation. Furthermore, our neutron spectrum remains primarily in the thermal range used by existing commercial reactors. We therefore avoid the more severe radiation damage effects faced by fast reactors, as thermal neutrons do comparatively less damage to structural materials.”

The designers say that a 520 MW reactor would cost $2 billion to construct, and, because it doesn’t need water for the reactor vessel, the plant is more versatile in siting requirements. Nuclear reactors operate all the time unlike wind and solar plants. And, of course, nuclear reactors do not emit carbon dioxide.

For full details and diagrams, read a 34-page white paper from Transatomic Power:

This seems like a viable option that would solve several problems.

Impact of Solar and Wind Electricity Generation on our energy supply and the environment

Installation of solar and wind facilities has expanded almost exponentially in the last few years. The graph below, from an article in Energy Matters by Roger Andrews, shows global growth.

Renewable energy growth

Quite impressive isn’t it? But what impact does it have on energy supply compared to total consumption? Andrews shows another graph which puts things in perspective:

Renewable energy impact

You might have to look very closely at the very bottom right of the graph to see what wind and solar generation contribute to our total energy supply. In spite of the exponential growth in solar and wind installations, it has had almost no impact on the supply of electricity. In the U.S. wind energy produced 3% of total energy consumption and solar energy produced 0.26% of total energy consumption in 2012 according to the Energy Information Administration.

President Obama, with his “war on coal,” has promoted alternative energy schemes. Europe, especially Germany, has been way ahead of Obama’s policy, and have found out, the hard way, that Obama’s prediction is true: “ “under my plan…electricity prices would necessarily
skyrocket.” (See The Price of Obama’s New Carbon Dioxide Emission Rules)
Pierre Gosselin, writing from Germany, says “It seems that it is beginning to dawn on some of Europe’s mainstream media: The transition to green energies is turning out to be ten or even 100 times more expensive than what they were led to believe just a few years ago.” “Already the EU 2020 strategy costs 185 billion euros annually. By the end of the century the costs will run to 15 trillion euros. With this, according to the UN IPCC, the global temperature increase will be lowered 0.05°C.”

While solar and wind generation seem to have little impact on electricity supply, generation facilities have a large impact on the environment because both solar and wind installations take up large tracts of land. They also have a negative impact on wildlife. See Avian mortality from solar farms and Big Wind gets “get out of jail free card” from Obama Administration. They also have an impact on human health and well-being, see Health Hazards of Wind Turbines.

Some people think we should replace all fossil fuels with “green” energy sources. Philip Dowd did a calculation on what it would take to produce all U.S. electricity from solar power (see full article here):

If we start with demand of 56 Terawatt hours of electricity per day and add a 50% safety factor, we find that we will then need a system that can produce about 83 Twh/day. The footprint of PV solar panels needed to produce this much electricity is 210,000 square miles [almost twice the size of Arizona]. Cost about $60 trillion.

“We would need some kind of battery to store energy to use at night. The article proposes pumped storage of water in a pair of reservoirs. This would require 1,640 reservoirs each covering at least 1,000 acres. Cost about $5 trillion.

Back in Germany, Gosselin also writes that “The days of an open welcome to ‘environmentally-friendly’ wind parks in Germany are over.” “Developers To Clear 850,000 sq m[eters] of virgin forests on UNESCO nature reserve to make way for 700-foot turbines.”

Gosselin also reports that every month 10 wind turbines are destroyed by fire due to lightening strikes, damage to power cable insulation, and overheated gear-drives.

The Obama administration seems to behave hypocritically on energy policy because he promotes alternative energy in the U.S. but U.S. taxpayers are subsidizing fossil fuels in other countries. Kevin Mooney, writing at the Daily Signal, notes:

“Americans have to pay more for electricity and compete for fewer jobs because of President Obama’s regulatory curbs on fossil fuels at home, even as their tax dollars support expansion of those same energy sources abroad.

“The Obama administration last month rolled out its most recent brake on fossil fuels, a 645-page proposed rule to achieve a 30 percent cut in carbon dioxide emissions from power sources by 2030 compared to 2005 levels.

“At the same time, the administration pressed for reauthorization this fall of the U.S. Export-Import Bank, a federal agency that offers billions of taxpayer dollars for development of fossil fuels in Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Mexico and other countries.”

We live in interesting times.

Avian mortality from solar farms

Alternative energy has some unintended consequences. Wind farms are known to chop up birds and bats, but solar energy was seen as benign – until now.

A report from the National Fish and Wildlife Forensic Laboratory examines bird mortality from three solar facilities in California. What is particularly interesting is that these facilities represent three different methods of producing solar energy. The objective of this report was not to count the number of avian deaths, but to study the manner of death of 233 bird remains collected at the sites over a few days.

The Ivanpah generating station, in the Mohave Desert southwest of Las Vegas, uses 173,500 heliostats each with two mirrors to focus sunlight on a tower where water is converted to steam to generate electricity. This method is called “solar-flux” and it generates very high temperatures. Birds experience traumatic impact with the mirrors, but the larger danger is getting singed by the heat flux which is up to 800 degrees F.

The Forensics Laboratory calls this facility a “mega-trap” because it attracts hordes of insects which, in turn, attract insect-eating birds that get singed by the heat. Disabled birds and bird carcases attract predators. The Forensic Laboratory says that this facility creates “an entire food chain vulnerable to injury and death.” The graphic below shows what happened to a Peregrine Falcon:

Ivanpah bird singeing

See more images of the Ivanpah facility here. Bird deaths are not the only problem experienced at Ivanpah: “Pilots flying over the Ivanpah solar energy plant in northeast San Bernardino County have complained of ‘nearly blinding’ glare from the sun’s reflection off fields of mirrors, federal documents show.” – Source

The Desert Sunlight Solar Farm (aka First Solar) in Riverside County, CA, uses standard photovoltaic collectors to product electricity. This facility was involved in a controversy about desert tortoises which had to be relocated. Photovoltaics are the type of solar installations around Tucson.

The principal threat is that birds mistake the reflective panels for water and crash into them and become injured and subject to predation or starvation.

The Genesis facility, also in Riverside County, CA, uses curved mirrors to focus light on a tube near the mirrors to heat water to generate the electricity. One of the solar plants in Gila Bend, AZ, is of this type. The threat to birds is impact trauma and predation.

The study found 71 bird species killed or injured at the solar facilities and these ranged from hummingbirds to pelicans. In summary, avian deaths occur by impact trauma and predation at all three types of solar farms and by heat flux singeing at the Ivanpah plant. The report notes that insects and bats are subject to the same dangers. Read the entire report at:

See also:

Wind turbines versus wildlife

Every year, millions of birds and bats are killed by wind turbines.

Tucson solar project not a good deal for taxpayers

The City of Tucson constructed PV solar arrays on City buildings which they claim will save on electricity costs and generate revenue. Savings and revenue are estimated to total $10.1 million over the life of the project. Trouble is, principal and interest on the bonds used to finance the project will cost taxpayers $16,710,000. Why does Tucson have a deficit?

Why alternative energy is not a viable alternative for electrical generation

Larry Bell, writing in Forbes, claims that ” Renewable Energy Is No Alternative.”  Read the complete article here.

His main points:

Utility scale wind and solar installations take up too much land to be a significant alternative to fossil fuels, nuclear, and hydro electrical generation which currently produce 96 percent of electricity in the U.S.  In the U.S. “about 3.4 percent now comes from wind, and about 0.11 percent from solar.”

Wind and solar generation are unpredictably intermittent and that makes electric grid management very difficult.  “Managing the uninterrupted transfer of electrical power from myriad sources wherever and whenever it is needed is a hugely complicated challenge. It’s one thing when the principal supply sources use gas, heat or hydraulically-driven turbines which provide constant, unfluctuating outputs that can be adjusted and counted upon independent of weather or season.”

Adding an unpredictable supply to the mix makes grid management very complex and increases  the danger that the grid will become unstable and fail.  The problem is multiplied as wind and solar generation become a larger percentage of the total power sources.  “Difficulties arise as segments of the grid become overloaded or underserved by the renewables, requiring the conventional-source turbines which balance the grid to meet base demand loads be repeatedly throttled down and up.  This reduces turbine operating efficiencies.”

Many upgrades to the electric grid would be necessary to safely accommodate the intermittent output of wind and solar generation.  A group from Caltech estimates “that the necessary upgrades to make a green future work will be ‘one of the greatest technological challenges industrialized societies have undertaken.’ They project this can be expected to cost about $1 trillion nationwide by 2030.”

As it stands now, utility scale wind and solar electrical generation do not represent a viable alternative.

See also:

Winds farms decrease weather radar ability to track storms

Wind Farms Gone Wild

Biofuels program destroying grasslands in American Midwest

Wind turbines killed 600000 bats last year

Wind turbines versus wildlife

The scale problem for solar and wind generation of electricity

Ethanol fuel not as green as you think

Health Hazards of Wind Turbines

Wind turbines killed 600,000 bats last year

Press release from the University of Colorado, Denver:

Study shows wind turbines killed 600,000 bats last year

Bats pollinate crops, control insects

DENVER (Nov. 15, 2013) – More than 600,000 bats were killed by wind energy turbines in 2012, a serious blow to creatures who pollinate crops and help control flying insects, according to a new study from the University of Colorado Denver.

“The development and expansion of wind energy facilities is a key threat to bat populations in North America,” said study author Mark Hayes, PhD, research associate in integrated biology at CU Denver. “Dead bats are being found underneath wind turbines across North America. The estimate of bat fatalities is probably conservative.”

The study, which analyzed data on the number of dead bats found at wind turbine sites, will be published next week in the journal BioScience.

Hayes said areas near the Appalachian Mountains like Buffalo, Tennessee and Mountaineer, West Virginia had the highest bat fatality rates. Little information is available on bat deaths at wind turbine facilities in the Rocky Mountain West or the Sierra Nevadas.

The bats are killed when they fly into the towering turbines which spin at up to 179 mph with blades that can stretch 130 feet. Earlier estimates of bat deaths ranged from 33,000 to 880,000.

Hayes said his estimates are likely conservative for two reasons. First, when a range of fatality estimates were reported at a wind facility, he chose the minimum estimate. Secondly, the number of deaths was estimated for just migratory periods, not the entire year, likely leaving out many other fatalities.

“The number could be as high as 900,000 dead,” he said.

There are 45 known bat species in the contiguous U.S., many of which have important economic impacts. Not only do they control flying insects like mosquitoes, they also pollinate commercial crops, flowers and various cacti.

Those suffering the most fatalities are the hoary bat, eastern bat and the silver-haired bat.

Hayes said there ways to mitigate the killings. One is to have the turbines activated to spin at higher wind speeds when bats don’t tend to fly.

“A lot of bats are killed because the turbines move at low wind speeds, which is when most bats fly around,” said Hayes, who has studied bats for 15 years. “In a recent study in Pennsylvania, researchers adjusted the operating speeds from 10 mph to 18 or 20 mph and decreased fatalities by 40 to 90 percent.”

Hayes said with the expansion of wind energy in the future, more bats will likely die.

“I am not against wind energy. It’s clean, it reduces pollution and it creates jobs. But there are negative impacts,” he said. “Still, I think this is a problem we can solve.”

See also:

Wind turbines versus wildlife

Wind Farms Gone Wild

Big Wind gets “get out of jail free card” from Obama Administration