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How to avoid killing birds with wind turbines

by Ivan Seeking
Tags: birds, killing, turbines, wind
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Ivan Seeking
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Jul7-05, 12:18 AM
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Stories about bird kills caused by wind turbines are common. I really don't see why this is a problem. It seems to me that something fairly simple could be done; lights, sound, optical effects using colored paints...something. Does anyone know much about this?
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Moonbear
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Jul7-05, 12:35 AM
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I could possibly help from the perspective of bird behavior, but I would first need to know more about what sort of wind turbines you're talking about. Are you talking about something for generating electricity? Where are they located? And are there specific types of birds causing trouble? I assume this isn't like jet engines where it has little to do with birds flying in and more to do with them getting sucked in once they get too close.

Some birds are hard to get rid of. You can put out dogs, set off pyrotechnics (for sound or light), etc, but after a while, they seem to stop fearing whatever is out there and return. If it's small birds, things that look like predators (paint on faces that look like owls, or put owl decoys nearby) can keep them away. But I don't know enough about what you're using them for to know if this is feasible or would hinder the function of the turbines.
Pengwuino
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Jul7-05, 12:50 AM
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I think hes talking about jet engines because other turbines arent really vulnerable to birds.

The problem is that its case-specific. it depends on what bird is around. I remember seeing one case study where they used a falcon because the falcon liked to prey on the birds that normally flew around there. Some birds probably dont respond correctly to sound or lights. Plus any decently bright light might present problems to incoming or outgoing aircraft.

brewnog
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Jul7-05, 04:50 AM
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How to avoid killing birds with wind turbines

He's talking about wind turbines, the ones used to generate electricity. I'm not so sure it's the turbines which are vulnerable to the birds, more the other way round!

I've personally not heard of it being a problem, but as Pengwuino said, birds of prey are often used to control populations of other birds which are causing a problem (I believe a pair of Buzzards were introduced to Battersea Power Station when it was mothballed to keep pigeons away), but then I suppose you need measures to stop the birds of prey killing themselves on the turbines!

If this is a real problem, I don't know what could be done, - the length of blades and speed of rotation is such that it may not be obvious for a bird to realise that they're in the path of a turbine blade. Ultrasound repellants? Scarecrows?
Averagesupernova
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Jul7-05, 09:02 AM
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Smarter birds?
Danger
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Jul7-05, 09:13 AM
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My first response, of course, would be to put nets under the turbines, collect the carcasses, and open a restaurant.
As for birds flying into the things because of not noticing them... I've heard a lot about bats dying the same way, and they are a lot more adept at detecting and avoiding things like that.
One of my friends back east owns a bunch of orchards and berry patches, and his cure for birds was a sound system that played a really raucous noise every couple of minutes. I believe that it was a bird call of some sort played backwards at extreme volume. Sounded sort of like when you whack a power-line guywire with a stick. Other farmers in the area used calcium carbide cannons that went off every few minutes. Both were pretty effective.
If I lived in the affected area, I'd be more than happy to have someone pay me to sit around all day with a 12 guage and intercept incoming featherballs.
Ivan Seeking
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Jul7-05, 01:46 PM
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Yes, sorry, I was talking about large wind turbines for generating electricity. I recently heard one report of over 4000 birds killed on just one wind farm; I guess this year... not sure of the time span. But it seems that this is becoming a real problem. Some new wind power installations have been delayed due to concerns by wildlife experts and advocates.
Ivan Seeking
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Jul7-05, 01:49 PM
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Isn't this a simple problem of the birds being oblivious to the presence of the turbine? If something made the turbine visible to the birds, wouldn't they avoid it?

As for the types of birds killed, presumably it varies with the location of the wind farm, but AFAIK, this issue has been noted for years at many locations around the world.
Danger
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Jul7-05, 02:01 PM
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It seems to me that most wind farms are preferentially located on coastal cliffs because that's one of the windiest environments. If that's true, then the birds involved are probably gulls, swallows, terns, etc.. I wonder if there might be a vacuum effect surrounding a turbine so that even if a bird does see it at the last second it can't veer away. Other than painting the things bright colours, making a lot of noise, and maybe building mesh enclosures around them, I can't think of a solution just off the top of my head.
Ivan Seeking
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Jul7-05, 02:06 PM
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btw, this may have been more appropriate for the Bio Forum but in the end it is an engineering problem...but then again, maybe that's why we have a bunch of dead birds.
Moonbear
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Jul7-05, 02:45 PM
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Quote Quote by Ivan Seeking
btw, this may have been more appropriate for the Bio Forum but in the end it is an engineering problem...but then again, maybe that's why we have a bunch of dead birds.
I guess it depends on the solution we find for the problem. We might find a mechanical solution that just blocks the birds from getting in (engineering) or a behavioral solution that alters the behavior of the birds so they don't go there (biology). We'll just have to work together for now.

The problem with bright colors is that you'd have to choose a color based on the particular problem species. You don't want to pick a color they associate with the flowers they seek nectar from, or that their mates display in their feathers. You'd also have to assess if this is an ongoing problem, a few birds a day, or are they mainly having trouble being along a migratory route where a large flock shows up and winds up in the turbines all in one or two days.

If it's a single species, identifying an appropriate predator call and broadcasting it over speakers might work. But, then that might depend on the predator. If you have dogs barking, the birds might fly up to higher ground...right into the turbines.

Netting would keep birds out, though it sounds like a highly impractical approach if you need to cover many many acres of land. And if the concern is trying to avoid killing birds rather than trying to avoid gumming up your turbines with dead birds, then you'll still run into trouble with smaller species getting tangled up in the netting (you'd have to use a color that contrasts well against the background so the birds see it before they fly smackdab into it).

Hmm..can you put some sort of shimmering reflective coating on the turbines rather than a color? I'm thinking something like metallic paint that has all those reflective flecks in it so that as it turns, it catches the light differently and becomes visible...the idea of contrast with the background seems to be the key.

Is anything currently done? It would be helpful to know if anything has already been attempted and failed.
brewnog
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Jul7-05, 06:14 PM
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The problem with colourful blades is that the turbines spin relatively slowly, so the birds will still think that it's safe*, which it is for a third of a second or so, and then they get a bit of a shock.


*Remember, brewnog is engineer, not birdy psychologist!

I think Darwinism in Action is the best policy. I'm sure our future generations will thank us for weeding out the stupid birds, and will be proud of the clever birdy legacy we leave them.
russ_watters
#13
Jul7-05, 07:49 PM
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Quote Quote by Ivan Seeking
Isn't this a simple problem of the birds being oblivious to the presence of the turbine? If something made the turbine visible to the birds, wouldn't they avoid it?
That would be my guess. The question is, would a glow-in-the dark or fluorescent orange turbine be an acceptable eyesore? I have whistles on my car that are supposed to be able to repel deer - perhaps there is something similar that can repel birds? Other than that - giant chicken-wire nets over the turbines?
hitssquad
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Jul7-05, 08:02 PM
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Quote Quote by brewnog
The problem with colourful blades is that the turbines spin relatively slowly, so the birds will still think that it's safe*, which it is for a third of a second or so, and then they get a bit of a shock.
Could you please be more explicit?
Moonbear
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Jul7-05, 08:11 PM
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Quote Quote by russ_watters
That would be my guess. The question is, would a glow-in-the dark or fluorescent orange turbine be an acceptable eyesore? I have whistles on my car that are supposed to be able to repel deer - perhaps there is something similar that can repel birds? Other than that - giant chicken-wire nets over the turbines?
I don't know if whistles would work or not. I'm not even totally sure they work for deer, but unless you run into a deer despite having whistles on your car, you won't be certain either.

As for colors being acceptable eyesores, how aesthetically pleasing are the turbines in the first place? (Brewnog, I was thinking something moving so fast it would be a blur, not really slowly...I think birds know how to get out of the way of something moving slowly if they know it's there, unless they are flying through while it looks "safe" and wind up in trouble only once on the other side???)

It seems chicken wire would more or less do the job. Not sure the gaps are small enough to keep little birds out, but they'll at least have to slow down, perch and hop through rather than flying full speed into a turbine. I have no idea what these things look like though. Is chicken wire feasible? And would that cause other problems, like catching debris and hindering the airflow? Plus, chicken wire rusts, so needs to be replaced every so many years. It should work from the bird side of things, but does it work from the turbine side of things?
brewnog
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Jul7-05, 08:27 PM
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Quote Quote by hitssquad
Could you please be more explicit?
I'll try.

Quote Quote by Moonbear
As for colors being acceptable eyesores, how aesthetically pleasing are the turbines in the first place?
Through my eyes, they're truly beautiful. Not so sure about bright colours from an aesthetic point of view, these things are controversial enough as it stands.

Quote Quote by Moonbrrr
Brewnog, I was thinking something moving so fast it would be a blur, not really slowly...I think birds know how to get out of the way of something moving slowly if they know it's there, unless they are flying through while it looks "safe" and wind up in trouble only once on the other side???
They're reasonably slow, in terms of RPM. Numbers out of my head say something to the order of 1 revolution per second. They're easily slow enough to watch go round, without getting dizzy. However, the blades are so long that the velocity at their tips (or even along the edge), the speed of the blade through the air can be considerable, and I suppose plenty fast enough to slice through/wallop anything which gets in its way.

I imagine that just seeing the blades coming is not enough for birds, - plenty of birds see my car coming, but that doesn't stop them from flying into my path. As far as they're concerned, nothing is supposed to move that quickly! Again, I'll state that I'm not a chartered bird psychologist.

I like the idea of sonic/ultrasonic repellents, but have no idea whether you can target them for birds, and there's always Moonbear's problem of them realising that there's no real threat (ha!) and getting used to the sound.

Is this really a problem then Ivan, or are you yanking our cranks?
brewnog
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Jul7-05, 08:29 PM
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Oh, and Moonbear, this picture might give you more of an idea of the size of these things!



Chickenwire that!
Moonbear
#18
Jul7-05, 08:49 PM
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Thanks for the picture, that helps. Yeah, I'd say chicken wire is out. Though, I could see where the white might not contrast much against the sky for the birds to gauge how fast the thing is coming at them. Okay, if not bright colors, because I can see where that might be an eyesore, what about adding some black stripes to the blades? If you put the stripes the length of the blade, it should provide some contrast (having both the black and white would make it contrast against the sky no matter the weather), but not look hideous like stripes around the blade would look.

I modified that picture to show that black blades aren't so bad either.
Attached Thumbnails
blackblades.jpg  


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