If you’re a migratory silver-haired, eastern red or hoary bat and you fly, you die. During your twice yearly migration from Canada and the northern tier states down to the Southern states and back you’ll have to navigate a gauntlet of machines based on a 16th century technology that is promoted as an ecologically sustainable way to produce energy in the 21st century.
When flying through these machines, you’ll have a high chance of dying by blunt force trauma, which is a sanitary way of saying that a windmill blade traveling at 150 miles per hour will slam into your body and crush a skull, break wings and legs or shatter your rib cage into your heart and lungs, allowing you to drown in your own blood.
According to an article authored by W. F. Frick and others titled “Fatalities at wind turbines may threaten population viability of a migratory bat,” published in the journal Biological Conservation 209 (2017), 500,000 bats are estimated to be killed annually by windmills across the U.S. and Canada.
In the study “Multiple mortality in bats: a global review” by T. J. O’Shea and others, (Mamm Rev, July 2016), the authors concluded that since the year 2000, bat collisions with windmills and the fungal disease white-nose syndrome are the No. 1 cause of all bat deaths in North America and Europe, surpassing all other causes.
So why do we care?
A paper titled “Economic Importance of Bats in Agriculture,” published in the April 2011 edition of Science, estimated the annual benefit to Idaho agriculture by insect-eating bats to be more than $313 million. For Washington, the amount was just over $325 million.
Also, according to a Natural Resources Research Institute research paper from Minnesota, bats prey on damaging forest insects such as tussock and spruce budworm moths, which accounts for another annual benefit for the forests of Idaho and Washington.
Nationwide, the insectivorous bat benefit to agriculture is better than $23 billion annually and these benefits are natural, organic and at no cost.
To a farmer, that means substantially less insecticide that he needs to apply for crop protection.
For a forest landowner, that means less tree mortality on her long-term timber crop.
For you, it means a lesser number of bothersome moths and mosquitoes as you sit on your deck on a summer evening.
Currently, however, in the eastern U.S., those insecticides, which are a poor substitute at best for insect predation by bats, are being applied by farmers because of the ongoing high bat mortality caused by windmills. And those applications are causing further mortality problems for bats of all types.
The problem for bats is that they are a long-lived species with a low reproduction rate. They rely on high adult survival. And when windmills kill prime breeding adults, it quickly wreaks havoc on the population since they only have one litter per year.
Killing a pregnant bat during the spring migration has an even larger affect since bats only mate in the fall and only produce one or two pups per year.
The studies are looking to see if a 500,000 to 1.6 million annual bat mortality rate is sustainable given those parameters. The outlook is that the hoary bat population will decline by 90 percent during the next 50 years and even faster if more wind turbines are constructed.
Now the wind power companies in their quest to increase profitability by producing even more taxpayer-subsidized kilowatts are putting longer Made in Portugal blades on the windmills. The result will be a larger and faster bat-killing bludgeon.
If an extinction or mass mortality apparatus is what you want, then you’ve created an even deadlier instrument. Indeed, the Indiana bat and the hoary bat are facing this threshold of existence because of wind turbine mortality.
The situation, however, is that wind power advocates live in a fantasy world where they actually believe windpower is a reliable, renewable and economic source of energy. They’ll even tell you that it is rapidly becoming or already is cheaper than fossil fuel energy. Now they do this by overestimating the life and efficiency of wind turbines and ignoring most of the costs.
Such is the case here. Not a single federal or state politician, national or regional columnist, cartoonist or letter writer who promotes windpower has ever mentioned the biological mortality cost. Their collective silence on this issue is equal to that of 500,000 dead bats.
In fact, they continue to press for more windmills that are wiping out an order of mammals that we can’t afford to lose. So if you’re one of the windmill power advocates who thinks we can tear out the dams or shut down natural gas power plants and that wind-generated electricity is an environmentally benign substitute that’s going to save the planet, it’s time for you to get real.
Because the color of this green energy is blood red and no amount of denial is going to change that.
Final note: Got bats? Contact your local state wildlife official for help on safely removing and excluding bats from unwanted places. Saving even one or two bats and their pups will have a far more positive effect on the environment than anything that the Sierra Club or their ilk will do this year.
Hassoldt is a field forester who lives in Kendrick.