An international group of scientists led by the University of Bristol has assessed the impact of ground mounted solar power plants on bat activity and has found that bats tend to avoid locations where these facilities are located.
Their work, exposed in the study “Renewable energies and biodiversity: Impact of ground-mounted solar photovoltaic sites on bat activity,” published in the Journal of Applied Ecology, consisted of analyzing species-specific bat activity and bat species richness at 19 ground-mounted solar PV developments in southwest England.
The researchers stressed that bats usually avoid anthropogenic alterations and that the research was launched with the idea that solar plants would inevitably reduce activity and species richness. “We also predicted that bat species would be mainly affected at their foraging/commuting habitats, that is open space foragers will show reduced activity in fields containing solar PV panels, whereas species that utilize edge and cluttered habitats would be more affected along boundary habitats,” they specified.
The average size of the grassland surfaces of the 19 solar farms is 59.6 hectares, and the grassland is grazed, mowed, or providing cut arable crops. Bat activity was monitored via bat detectors for 7 consecutive nights at each site. This resulted in 51,464 call sequences, comprising 10 species or species groups.
The researchers compared bat activity registered at the solar plants with that of reference sites with no photovoltaic installations. “We found statistical evidence that the activity of six of eight species/species groups were negatively affected by solar PV panels,” they said. “The panels may be causing some bats to alter their flight paths, potentially resulting in further fragmentation of the ecological landscape.”
The research team, which also includes academics from the ELTE Eötvös Loránd University in Hungary and the Hungarian University of Agriculture and Life Sciences, believes that solar PV sites may reduce bat activity over broad geographical scales. “We conclude that assessing, mitigating and monitoring bat activity needs to be factored into solar PV development planning and operation,” they stressed.
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