Blogger: Rachael Murray, Projects Officer
At the RSPB, we are well known for our royal allegiance to birds. And, whilst we think things with beaks are pretty marvellous, it’s less known that we also spend a great deal of time protecting, campaigning for, and creating space for all manner of other beastie.
And though I know this theoretically, it’s been working on The Lodge wind turbine project that has really driven it home to me; in fact, lately, it’s been driving me a bit batty!
Before we can be confident that The Lodge is a suitable site for a turbine, we’ve had a great deal of survey work to do, and there’s more to come.
After surveying bird populations in the area for years, we are confident that a turbine at The Lodge won’t result in any negative impacts on our sensitive feathered species. But birds are not the only winged creatures that call The Lodge their home. We also have bats hiding away in the nearby woodlands by day and careering around the reserve on the hunt for tasty moths and other insects as night falls. And before we can even think about further planning for a turbine, we need to make sure that they will happily co-exist with our proposed green energy generator.
We are now entering our third year of bat surveys, and things are suddenly getting more interesting, thanks to our new meteorological mast, constructed in Sandy Ridge this Tuesday. As well as measuring wind speeds, this 70 m tall steel structure will, for the first time, allow us to monitor bat activity at the height of the proposed turbine blades.
This will help us understand if a turbine is likely to impact upon some of our resident species, including common pipistrelle (drawing below), soprano pipistrelle and noctule.
Drawing by Chris Shields (rspb-images.com)
And since the mast will be simultaneously measuring wind speeds and bat activity, it will allow us to do something a bit clever. By looking at both sets of data together, we will get an understanding of our furry friend’s behaviour at different times of year, in different wind speeds.
This means that even if we do see our batty visitors regularly calling by the turbine site in search of an insect snack, at a particular time of the night, year, or in a specific wind speed, we may be able to turn the turbine off whilst they are in harm’s way. Existing research suggests that this can often be in lower wind speeds, which would mean that switching the turbine off in these conditions wouldn’t significantly impact the amount of electricity that our turbine generates.
But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves....for now, we are just excited to be devoting attention to our resident bats, to ensure that we are as focused on their welfare as that of our feathered friends.
Building a turbine is not a decision we will take lightly. However, if we find our chosen site to be suitable, it is a step that we will be taking with great pride, and optimism for a future with lower carbon emissions and choc full of wildlife species safe from the impacts of climate change. And we hope you agree that there is nothing batty about that.
If you’d like to keep up-to-date with project progress, or want to know more about the project we’ll be keeping everyone posted on at www.rspb.org.uk/lodgewindturbine.
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