Feathering is helping bats fly more freely near Consumers Energy wind farms. Starting in spring 2017, we implemented a “feathering” system to help protect migratory bats at the Lake Winds® and Cross Winds® Energy Parks.
That means specialized software slows down wind turbine blades when the time and temperature are ideal for bats to fly. The industry best practice has reduced bat fatalities by 30 percent at other wind farms.
“Consumers Energy is committed to caring for the wildlife in and around the areas impacted by our operations,” said Margaret O’Connor, a Principal Environmental Planner.
Feathering is merely Consumers Energy’s latest effort to help protect bats — and it’s one reason we recently received the “Bats for Tomorrow” award from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Michigan Bat Working Group.
The April recognition also resulted from our work at Tippy Dam, where more than 21,000 bats hibernate in the dam spillway each winter, and new forestry line clearing practices were designed to protect tree bats.
Before building our wind farms in Mason and Tuscola counties, we worked with Eastern Michigan University biology professor Allen Kurta to track the presence of bats as well as their flight, foraging and feeding habits.
Those studies helped us design the wind farms to have minimal impact on bats and other wildlife. Turbines are placed, for example, so the tip of any blade is at least 150 feet away from a woodlot.
Migratory bats are generally in Michigan between April and October and are most active on calm, warmer nights when wind speeds fall below 9 miles per hour and temperatures rise above 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
Turbines at Lake Winds and Cross Winds now are programmed to recognize those optimal bat flight conditions and respond by slowing, or feathering, the turbine blades to reduce the odds of an accident. Feathering also helps the efficiency of the turbines at low operating speeds.