Scientists listen to the sound of bats over a field dotted with solar panels and this leads to a disturbing discovery

Bats appear to deliberately avoid sun gardens. But with a simple trick, these basic animals can be lured back.

We are currently in a phase of what is called the energy transition, where we are getting rid of polluting fossil fuels and switching to sustainable and renewable energy sources. This is vital to stopping climate change. An important role is assigned to solar gardens: large plots of land filled with solar panels. And while these solar parks are important for sustainable electricity generation, it now appears that they also have a worryingly negative impact on biodiversity.

Stady
Solar gardens are appearing in more and more places in the Dutch landscape. But despite this significant increase, scientists are still largely unknown about how these parks affect biodiversity. To find out more about this, British researchers placed “bat detectors” on a solar farm and on a similar adjacent field without solar panels. The fields were nearly identical in size and other characteristics and had, for example, similar hedges. The only major difference was the presence or absence of solar panels. The team then listened to which and how many bats had visited both sites using the installed equipment.

decrease
The study makes a disturbing discovery. For example, bats seem to deliberately avoid sun gardens. There were significantly fewer bats flying over the solar gardens than the number of bats flying over the field without the solar panels. Six of the eight bat species studied were less active over fields with solar panels than over fields without them.

Bats appear to deliberately avoid sun gardens. Photo: Lizzie Tinsley

The negative impact
the findings Solar gardens, essential to our transition to sustainably generated energy, have been shown to have a negative impact on biodiversity. Researchers don’t yet fully understand why bats seem to avoid solar farms. In theory, solar panels could inadvertently reduce the number of insects (the bats’ main food source) as fewer plants grow in fields. In addition, solar panels may make fields less suitable.

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worrying
According to the researchers, the fact that bats stay away is worrying. Bats are important indicators of the health of ecosystems. In addition, they prey on insects and suppress pests. “But we’re now seeing solar farms occupying more and more suitable bat feeding areas,” said study co-author Gareth Jones. “In addition, we already know that bats can easily collide with vertical flat surfaces and sometimes mistake them for water.” However, the researchers wrote, the findings should not hinder the transition to renewable energy. “We should instead look for appropriate mitigation measures,” said study leader Lizzie Tinsley. “This has also worked for wind farms.”

wind farms
This is not the first time that friction has arisen between clean energy generation and biodiversity. This was indeed the case with wind farms. Many bats have died after coming into contact with the blades of wind turbines. Fortunately, there is a solution to that. For example, turbines now only operate at higher wind speeds. “In addition, low-cost acoustic deterrents are also used,” says Tinsley. As a result, the mortality rate among bats has dropped dramatically.

possibilities
Researchers hope to find a solution to reduce the number of bats over solar gardens. “Maybe we can put insect-friendly plants or trees in the ground,” Tinsley suggests. It will also be easier to think about the best place for a solar garden from now on. For example, you can choose fields that are difficult for bats to visit anyway. “In these ways, renewable energy can be provided while at the same time not harming wildlife,” Tinsley concludes.

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Renewable energy is growing rapidly around the world. In addition, solar energy is often used. Solar energy currently accounts for about 30 percent of global renewable electricity production. It is expected to continue rising. According to the researchers, it is critical that the further growth of renewable energy does not impede biodiversity, so that the benefits of solar energy can be reaped without negatively impacting nature.

Did you know…
… well-designed solar gardens can boost biodiversity? Although solar parks occupy large areas of land, they often cover only five percent of the surface. This means that large areas of land within a solar garden can be used for other purposes. For example, flower meadows can be planted here, which in turn attract bumblebees and other pollinators. know more? Read more here!

Megan Vasquez

"Creator. Coffee buff. Internet lover. Organizer. Pop culture geek. Tv fan. Proud foodaholic."

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