NREL Celebrates Bat Appreciation Day

Researchers Advance Species Protection Research Through Technological Innovation and Partnerships

April 17, 2019 | Contact media relations

Bats are amazing. The only flying mammal, they navigate the night skies using natural sonar. Some even defend their territories and attract mates by singing complicated melodies. Yet, bats have gotten a bad rap. Myths surrounding bats have done little to endear them to people, but as we learn more about these once-mysterious mammals, we can appreciate the role they play in our ecosystem.

Bat flying.
Bats are unique among mammals in their ability to fly and use sonar to navigate the night skies. Photo by Jens Rydell, Lund University

Bats are responsible for pollinating economically important plants, such as bananas, peaches, mangoes, and agave. They disperse seeds, helping to regenerate rainforests. And, bats are the primary predators of night-flying insects, saving farmers billions of dollars each year from crop damage and pesticide use.

Unfortunately, bats face many challenges and are more vulnerable to extinction than other animals. Bats have a low reproductive rate for their size—many species only give birth to one pup at a time. Environmental stressors such as habitat loss, food shortages, disease, severe weather events, and energy development can significantly impact bat populations.

As a founding member of the Bats and Wind Energy Cooperative, NREL has spent 15 years working to protect bats by developing innovative technological solutions to monitor and minimize wind energy's impacts to bats.

Our efforts to understand how bats interact with wind turbines help scientists develop technologies that lessen the effects on these beneficial animals.

One such technological solution is the use of ultrasonic acoustic deterrents (UAD), which emit frequencies perceptible to bats to discourage them from approaching wind turbines. NREL recently received funding from the U.S. Department of Energy to reduce environmental impacts of wind energy by improving the effectiveness of UAD technology. Other technological innovations include thermal imaging cameras and specially developed radar technologies, both of which detect and deter wildlife from approaching wind turbine blades.