Most people probably don’t think much about wind turbines, but they actually cause a number of bird deaths per year. But there is one very simple solution that seems to be making a difference in the Norwegian archipelago of Smøla. A study was conducted at a wind farm that found that the simple change of painting one single wind turbine blade black actually helped to decrease bird deaths by 70%. So simple, yet so effective.
Over the last several years there has been a spike in global wind power. This means that there is more than 60GW of new generating capacity that has been in the world since 2019. If these wind turbines are properly installed, the power that comes from the wind is actually cheaper and more sustainable than relying on fossil fuels. Plus a field of wind turbines is much prettier to look at than a large power plant.
As wonderful as the wind turbines are for sustainable energy, they do have a negative effect on bird and bat populations in whichever area they’re located. According to estimations by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, there were roughly 300,000 birds killed in 2015 by wind turbines. This figure is definitely much larger than the number of birds that are killed by electrical power lines.
This is still very much an environmental concern, as bird deaths from wind turbines can cause the industry to try using larger turbine blades which move at a much slower pace. There have been studies to suggest that birds aren’t the best at noticing possible obstacles in the flight path, however, adding such visual clues like different colors to the turbine blades can help birds better spot these dangers before it’s too late.
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The report says that on the Smøla wind farm, the regular inspections of four wind turbines resulted in the discovery of six White-Tailed Eagle remains between 2006 and 2013. Those four turbines caused the death of 18 birds across the span of 6 years, as well as 5 Willow Ptarmigans.
But then, in 2013, there was a test group that decided to paint a single blade black. That meant that during the following 3 years there were only 6 birds who died because of the wind turbines. The study then noted that there was a reduction of 71.9% in bird fatality because of the single turbine being painted black.
The study also found that there was a variation according to the seasons. During the spring and autumn months, there were fewer bird deaths because of the painted turbines. However, during the summer months, bird deaths actually increased.
The researchers then noted that the results of this study were necessary to making long-term changes to wind turbines in order to help birds – that way there is long-term sustainability for both humans and birds alike.
Anastasia is an American writer and journalist living in Dublin, Ireland. Her Twitter is @AnastasiaArell5.
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