Scientists flying high with map to cut turbine collisions

 In Wind Turbines

A bird migration map drawn up by scientists to cut wildlife deaths at onshore wind turbines and power lines is a brilliant idea. 

“It shows how science and conservation can work together with green energy to produce a safer and better planet,” said Midlands environment expert Ron Fox. 

“Wind turbines may be considered an eco-friendly way to generate energy. But they pose a major threat to migrating birds who collide with the giant blades in flight with estimates suggesting that between 10,000 and 100,000 birds are killed this way every year in the UK.”

Researchers led by a team from the University of East Anglia (UEA) fitted satellite tags to 27 species, including eagles, gulls, owls, storks and swans, to track the migratory routes of 1,400 birds which helped them to produce a comprehensive map for the UK, continental Europe and north Africa.

Now they are hoping governments will use this information to plan new eco-friendly wind turbines well away from migrating birds, such as the Eurasian spoonbill, European eagle owl, whooper swan, Iberian imperial eagle and white stork.

The scientists monitored where birds were frequently flying at a so-called danger height, defined as 10m to 60m (33 to 197ft) above ground near power lines and 15m to 135m (50 to 443ft) above wind turbines. 

Combining this data with information on existing wind farms and power lines where birds are already at high risk of collision, they identified the riskiest locations which were on the coast and at key breeding grounds.

In Britain the dangerous sites were Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, and the coastlines of Cornwall and Norfolk while hotspots in the Mediterranean included the Strait of Gibraltar, south of France, Southern Spain and the Moroccan coastline plus Eastern Romania, the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt and Germany’s Baltic coast. 

“I agree with the researchers who said development of new wind turbines and transmission power lines should be minimised in these sensitive areas,” said Ron, of Noreus Ltd at Keele University, Staffordshire. 

“And any developments allowed must include measures to reduce the risk to birds, such as marking lines on turbine blades or switching off turbines when birds are approaching. 

“And technology has already been shown to work. Norwegian scientists found that by painting one of the four white blades on a wind turbine black this move cut the number of dead birds by 72 per cent on the remote island of Smola, west of Trondheim.

Wind turbines use the energy in the wind to turn the propeller-like blades around a rotor which is connected to the main shaft, which spins a generator to create electricity. They work in the opposite way to fans which uses electricity to make wind, while turbines use wind to make electricity. There are two types of turbines on-shore ones and off-shore ones which are larger, often in big groups known as wind farms and tend to create more energy, providing the bulk of power to the National Grid.

For more information on green energy, call Ron on 0845 474. 

Caption: On the map – scientists have drawn up a bird migration chart to cut wildlife deaths at wind turbines. 

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