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Title: Evaluating the Effectiveness of an Ultrasonic Acoustic Deterrent in Reducing Bat Fatalities at Wind Energy Facilities

Abstract

This project was designed to use thermal video cameras and fatality monitoring to evaluate the effectiveness of an ultrasonic acoustic deterrent (UAD) on bat activity and mortality, respectively. Our goals were to redesign the UAD device and installation infrastructure, determine the placement on wind turbines to optimize safety, compatibility and functionality, and to compare the mortality among the following conditions: Control (deterrents off and turbines feathered up to the manufacturer’s cut-in speed of 3.5 m/s), Deterrent (deterrents on and turbines feathered up to the manufacturer’s cut-in speed of 3.5 m/s), Curtailment (deterrents off and turbines feathered up to 5/ m/s), and combination (deterrents on and turbines feathered up to 5 m/s). The project was divided into a Feasibility Study and Comparative Study. The objectives for the Feasibility Study were to develop an installation strategy, redesign a previous iteration of a UAD to improve performance and weatherization, and test the effectiveness of the deterrents on bat activity. The Feasibility Study was intended to work out potential issues using a relatively small number of devices prior to manufacturing and installing numerous devices for a larger-scale comparative study. The division of the project into these separate studies was based on previous experience andmore » the challenges of assessing the capabilities of an untested UAD. During the initial development and manufacturing of the UAD, NRG Systems decided to use a piezoelectric transducer rather than an electrostatic transducer, which was used by a previous device (i.e. Deaton UAD). NRG Systems conducted lab testing (i.e., IP67 or Ingress Protection) to ensure no water or dust ingress. In addition, shock/drop trials and variations in temperature exposure were conducted as part of the reliability testing. NRG Systems also developed a communications system to allow for continuous performance monitoring of the UADs. For the Feasibility Study, we installed 6 UADs on each of 2 Gamesa G90 2-MW wind turbines (Turbine 14 and 8) at the South Chestnut Wind Energy Facility, Pennsylvania and monitored activity under control and treatment (i.e. Deterrent) conditions using thermal video monitoring. There are two major sources of variation in bat activity (beyond the anticipated treatment effect): 1) environment around the turbines might inherently favor more activity at one than the other; 2) weather conditions on any given night or within season difference (e.g., migration later during the study period) might favor more activity on some nights than on other nights. Because we could only monitor two turbines on any night, we sought to control the potential influences of these two sources by alternating the turbine on which deterrents were activated each night. If there were no loss of data due to technical failures, this design would result in an equal number of deterrent and control nights at each turbine through the monitoring period, balancing the effects of both sources of variation. We compared the time bats spent and the number of events that occurred in overlapping cameras FOV as an indicator of risk, since 80% of the overlapping FOV of the cameras was in the RSA. Equipment failures, majority due to lightning, resulted in only 17 nights with useable data, with unbalanced treatment assignment within turbines and uneven distribution of treatment assignment throughout the observational period. This resulted in a confounding of treatment assignment and seasonal change. Deterrent treatment was measured at Turbine 14 on only 2 of the first 8 usable nights (spanning the period from 8/18-9/17), whereas 6 times on Turbine 8. From 9/18-927, deterrent was on at Turbine 14 on 6 of the remaining 10 nights, and 4 on Turbine 8. We recorded a total of 1,057 bats and observed a reduction in number of events and duration of events at the UAD-activated turbine when it was Turbine 14. When Turbine 8 had the UAD activated, we observed no difference in number or duration of events. Variation between turbines is not unusual and can cause issues when study designs have no true replication, i.e., multiple turbines per treatment. Within-turbine differences suggested a trend for reduced activity when UADs were activated, particularly for Turbine 14. These results may be caused by the overall higher bat activity at Turbine 8 and confounding of treatment assignment and seasonal trends. We mapped 58 bat events in 3-dimensional space (3D), 30 and 28 events during control and treatment conditions, respectively. We observed bats crossing the rotor plane under both control and treatment conditions and observed a total of 40 confirmed or near-collisions (i.e., target close to blade but no visual confirmation of a strike) out of a total of 1,491 medium and high confidence bat observations (880 control, 611 at treatment). Twice as many collisions/possible collisions were observed during control conditions. Given the challenges with the equipment and potential confounding of the data (i.e., different activity levels at the two wind turbines), we were unable to determine whether this initial turbine placement and orientation was optimal. Given no new information on how best to install the devices, we elected to use the same placement and orientation for the comparative study. For the Comparative Study, the objectives were to investigate the relative mortality rates among 4 treatments. We searched the area within 90 m of each turbine daily to recover the highest number of fresh fatalities possible. We were unable to detect a clear reduction in mortality from deterrents alone for any individual species. Surprisingly, mortality rate of the eastern red bat (Lasiurus borealis) was estimated to be 1.3–4.2 times as much when turbines were operating normally and UADs were on than when UADs were off. Reduction in mortality of all bat species combined due to curtailment of turbines was estimated to be between 0%–38%. This effect was nullified when, in addition to curtailment, UADs were on, with 95% confidence interval ranging from a 45% reduction to a 36% increase in mortality. This was likely due to the large proportion of eastern red bats in the total carcass population. Mortality of all low-frequency echolocating bats combined (i.e. hoary bat [L. cinereus], big brown bat [Eptesicus fuscus], silver-haired bat [Lasionycteris noctivagans]) relative to control was lower when curtailed (95% CI: 0%–74%), but the addition of UADs had no detectable effect (95%CI: 13%–79%). The combined treatment reduced mortality in silver-haired bats relative to control by 11%–99%, compared to curtailment (81% reduction–67% increase) or deterrent (82% reduction–67% increase) alone. Because silver-haired bats comprised a large proportion of low-frequency calling bats found during this study, a similar effect was seen for that group. The higher mortality observed for eastern red bats at UAD compared to control could have been caused by several factors, such as the effective range of the UAD, particularly at higher frequencies, behavior, positioning of the devices on the nacelle, or a combination of these. We used 3D thermal videography to compare control and UAD bat behavior from two turbines using a total of 203 3D bat-tracks across 34 nights. We recorded a similar number of bat-tracks between treatment groups, with 51% and 49% for control and UAD, respectively. Due to potential differences in bat behavior around spinning vs stationary turbine blades, we examined UAD effectiveness separately for non-operating turbines (feathered below cut-in speed of 3.5 m/s) and operating (normal operation above wind speed of 3.5 m/s). We found a higher proportion of bat-tracks at operating turbines (82%) compared to non-operating turbines (18%), although this does not account for overall time turbines were operating versus not. At non-operating turbines the UAD appears to be effective at reducing the amount of time, flight length, and number of passes through the rotor plane, compared to control. In addition, we found bats approached turbines similarly between control and treatment turbines, with 61% of control and 63% of UAD bat-tracks originating leeward of the hub. In contrast, at operating turbines, we saw little change in bat behavior in response to UADs. For example, we found an increase in the average duration of bat-tracks between non-operating and operating turbines for UAD but at control turbines we found average duration decreased once turbines became operational. Both control and UAD had a high proportion of bat-tracks that crossed the rotor plane (i.e., collision risk) originate from the windward side when turbines were operational 65% to 92%, respectively. Given that the UAD devices closest to the blades were orientated parallel to the blades, its possible bats were not exposed to the signal until they were close to the turbine blades, as suggested by the slightly higher mean duration within 5 meters of the blades for UAD turbines. Future research should consider concentrating UAD intensity on the areas of risk (i.e. blades) with enough buffer to allow bats to react to the sound before entering the rotor-swept area (RSA). In addition, investigating the potential of installing UAD units windward of the turbine blades (e.g. a hub-mounted UAD), particularly since even under control conditions, a relatively high proportion (65%) of crosses through the blade plane originated windward. 3D thermal videography provided valuable information on future testing strategies (e.g. device placement, UAD orientation) to improve UAD effectiveness when bats are at risk (i.e., operating wind turbines). Across the entire project we experienced issues with the operation and communication with the UADs. Most of the issues occurred during the Feasibility Study and were resolved prior to the Comparability Study. Additional challenges surfaced during the Comparability Study but were remedied immediately and are thought to have little impact on the results. We had logistical constraints at the project that limited our ability use traditional methods in our camera calibration. Several calibrations showed inaccurate scales, which may have been related to inadequate spatial coverage of “points” in the camera calibration volume. Because we were using actual video recordings of bats at a wind turbine, the behavior of bats could have concentrated “points” in specific areas of the turbine (i.e. leeward of nacelle), and limited “points” in other areas, resulting in camera calibration issues. We have plans to address these inconsistencies and improving the software and related methodologies by early 2020.« less

Authors:
ORCiD logo [1]
  1. Bat Conservation International
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Bat Conservation International
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), Wind Energy Technologies Office (EE-4WE)
Contributing Org.:
NRG Systems Avangrid Renewables
OSTI Identifier:
1605929
Report Number(s):
DOE-BCI-0007036
DOE Contract Number:  
EE0007036
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
17 WIND ENERGY; Wind Energy, Bats, Ultrasonic Acoustic Deterrents, Bat Behavior, Impact Reduction Strategy, deterrent, curtailment

Citation Formats

Schirmacher, Michael R. Evaluating the Effectiveness of an Ultrasonic Acoustic Deterrent in Reducing Bat Fatalities at Wind Energy Facilities. United States: N. p., 2020. Web. doi:10.2172/1605929.
Schirmacher, Michael R. Evaluating the Effectiveness of an Ultrasonic Acoustic Deterrent in Reducing Bat Fatalities at Wind Energy Facilities. United States. doi:10.2172/1605929.
Schirmacher, Michael R. Fri . "Evaluating the Effectiveness of an Ultrasonic Acoustic Deterrent in Reducing Bat Fatalities at Wind Energy Facilities". United States. doi:10.2172/1605929. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/1605929.
@article{osti_1605929,
title = {Evaluating the Effectiveness of an Ultrasonic Acoustic Deterrent in Reducing Bat Fatalities at Wind Energy Facilities},
author = {Schirmacher, Michael R},
abstractNote = {This project was designed to use thermal video cameras and fatality monitoring to evaluate the effectiveness of an ultrasonic acoustic deterrent (UAD) on bat activity and mortality, respectively. Our goals were to redesign the UAD device and installation infrastructure, determine the placement on wind turbines to optimize safety, compatibility and functionality, and to compare the mortality among the following conditions: Control (deterrents off and turbines feathered up to the manufacturer’s cut-in speed of 3.5 m/s), Deterrent (deterrents on and turbines feathered up to the manufacturer’s cut-in speed of 3.5 m/s), Curtailment (deterrents off and turbines feathered up to 5/ m/s), and combination (deterrents on and turbines feathered up to 5 m/s). The project was divided into a Feasibility Study and Comparative Study. The objectives for the Feasibility Study were to develop an installation strategy, redesign a previous iteration of a UAD to improve performance and weatherization, and test the effectiveness of the deterrents on bat activity. The Feasibility Study was intended to work out potential issues using a relatively small number of devices prior to manufacturing and installing numerous devices for a larger-scale comparative study. The division of the project into these separate studies was based on previous experience and the challenges of assessing the capabilities of an untested UAD. During the initial development and manufacturing of the UAD, NRG Systems decided to use a piezoelectric transducer rather than an electrostatic transducer, which was used by a previous device (i.e. Deaton UAD). NRG Systems conducted lab testing (i.e., IP67 or Ingress Protection) to ensure no water or dust ingress. In addition, shock/drop trials and variations in temperature exposure were conducted as part of the reliability testing. NRG Systems also developed a communications system to allow for continuous performance monitoring of the UADs. For the Feasibility Study, we installed 6 UADs on each of 2 Gamesa G90 2-MW wind turbines (Turbine 14 and 8) at the South Chestnut Wind Energy Facility, Pennsylvania and monitored activity under control and treatment (i.e. Deterrent) conditions using thermal video monitoring. There are two major sources of variation in bat activity (beyond the anticipated treatment effect): 1) environment around the turbines might inherently favor more activity at one than the other; 2) weather conditions on any given night or within season difference (e.g., migration later during the study period) might favor more activity on some nights than on other nights. Because we could only monitor two turbines on any night, we sought to control the potential influences of these two sources by alternating the turbine on which deterrents were activated each night. If there were no loss of data due to technical failures, this design would result in an equal number of deterrent and control nights at each turbine through the monitoring period, balancing the effects of both sources of variation. We compared the time bats spent and the number of events that occurred in overlapping cameras FOV as an indicator of risk, since 80% of the overlapping FOV of the cameras was in the RSA. Equipment failures, majority due to lightning, resulted in only 17 nights with useable data, with unbalanced treatment assignment within turbines and uneven distribution of treatment assignment throughout the observational period. This resulted in a confounding of treatment assignment and seasonal change. Deterrent treatment was measured at Turbine 14 on only 2 of the first 8 usable nights (spanning the period from 8/18-9/17), whereas 6 times on Turbine 8. From 9/18-927, deterrent was on at Turbine 14 on 6 of the remaining 10 nights, and 4 on Turbine 8. We recorded a total of 1,057 bats and observed a reduction in number of events and duration of events at the UAD-activated turbine when it was Turbine 14. When Turbine 8 had the UAD activated, we observed no difference in number or duration of events. Variation between turbines is not unusual and can cause issues when study designs have no true replication, i.e., multiple turbines per treatment. Within-turbine differences suggested a trend for reduced activity when UADs were activated, particularly for Turbine 14. These results may be caused by the overall higher bat activity at Turbine 8 and confounding of treatment assignment and seasonal trends. We mapped 58 bat events in 3-dimensional space (3D), 30 and 28 events during control and treatment conditions, respectively. We observed bats crossing the rotor plane under both control and treatment conditions and observed a total of 40 confirmed or near-collisions (i.e., target close to blade but no visual confirmation of a strike) out of a total of 1,491 medium and high confidence bat observations (880 control, 611 at treatment). Twice as many collisions/possible collisions were observed during control conditions. Given the challenges with the equipment and potential confounding of the data (i.e., different activity levels at the two wind turbines), we were unable to determine whether this initial turbine placement and orientation was optimal. Given no new information on how best to install the devices, we elected to use the same placement and orientation for the comparative study. For the Comparative Study, the objectives were to investigate the relative mortality rates among 4 treatments. We searched the area within 90 m of each turbine daily to recover the highest number of fresh fatalities possible. We were unable to detect a clear reduction in mortality from deterrents alone for any individual species. Surprisingly, mortality rate of the eastern red bat (Lasiurus borealis) was estimated to be 1.3–4.2 times as much when turbines were operating normally and UADs were on than when UADs were off. Reduction in mortality of all bat species combined due to curtailment of turbines was estimated to be between 0%–38%. This effect was nullified when, in addition to curtailment, UADs were on, with 95% confidence interval ranging from a 45% reduction to a 36% increase in mortality. This was likely due to the large proportion of eastern red bats in the total carcass population. Mortality of all low-frequency echolocating bats combined (i.e. hoary bat [L. cinereus], big brown bat [Eptesicus fuscus], silver-haired bat [Lasionycteris noctivagans]) relative to control was lower when curtailed (95% CI: 0%–74%), but the addition of UADs had no detectable effect (95%CI: 13%–79%). The combined treatment reduced mortality in silver-haired bats relative to control by 11%–99%, compared to curtailment (81% reduction–67% increase) or deterrent (82% reduction–67% increase) alone. Because silver-haired bats comprised a large proportion of low-frequency calling bats found during this study, a similar effect was seen for that group. The higher mortality observed for eastern red bats at UAD compared to control could have been caused by several factors, such as the effective range of the UAD, particularly at higher frequencies, behavior, positioning of the devices on the nacelle, or a combination of these. We used 3D thermal videography to compare control and UAD bat behavior from two turbines using a total of 203 3D bat-tracks across 34 nights. We recorded a similar number of bat-tracks between treatment groups, with 51% and 49% for control and UAD, respectively. Due to potential differences in bat behavior around spinning vs stationary turbine blades, we examined UAD effectiveness separately for non-operating turbines (feathered below cut-in speed of 3.5 m/s) and operating (normal operation above wind speed of 3.5 m/s). We found a higher proportion of bat-tracks at operating turbines (82%) compared to non-operating turbines (18%), although this does not account for overall time turbines were operating versus not. At non-operating turbines the UAD appears to be effective at reducing the amount of time, flight length, and number of passes through the rotor plane, compared to control. In addition, we found bats approached turbines similarly between control and treatment turbines, with 61% of control and 63% of UAD bat-tracks originating leeward of the hub. In contrast, at operating turbines, we saw little change in bat behavior in response to UADs. For example, we found an increase in the average duration of bat-tracks between non-operating and operating turbines for UAD but at control turbines we found average duration decreased once turbines became operational. Both control and UAD had a high proportion of bat-tracks that crossed the rotor plane (i.e., collision risk) originate from the windward side when turbines were operational 65% to 92%, respectively. Given that the UAD devices closest to the blades were orientated parallel to the blades, its possible bats were not exposed to the signal until they were close to the turbine blades, as suggested by the slightly higher mean duration within 5 meters of the blades for UAD turbines. Future research should consider concentrating UAD intensity on the areas of risk (i.e. blades) with enough buffer to allow bats to react to the sound before entering the rotor-swept area (RSA). In addition, investigating the potential of installing UAD units windward of the turbine blades (e.g. a hub-mounted UAD), particularly since even under control conditions, a relatively high proportion (65%) of crosses through the blade plane originated windward. 3D thermal videography provided valuable information on future testing strategies (e.g. device placement, UAD orientation) to improve UAD effectiveness when bats are at risk (i.e., operating wind turbines). Across the entire project we experienced issues with the operation and communication with the UADs. Most of the issues occurred during the Feasibility Study and were resolved prior to the Comparability Study. Additional challenges surfaced during the Comparability Study but were remedied immediately and are thought to have little impact on the results. We had logistical constraints at the project that limited our ability use traditional methods in our camera calibration. Several calibrations showed inaccurate scales, which may have been related to inadequate spatial coverage of “points” in the camera calibration volume. Because we were using actual video recordings of bats at a wind turbine, the behavior of bats could have concentrated “points” in specific areas of the turbine (i.e. leeward of nacelle), and limited “points” in other areas, resulting in camera calibration issues. We have plans to address these inconsistencies and improving the software and related methodologies by early 2020.},
doi = {10.2172/1605929},
journal = {},
number = ,
volume = ,
place = {United States},
year = {2020},
month = {2}
}