Renewable energy is now the most affordable source of energy on the planet. Countries all over the world are rapidly transitioning away from destructive and limited fossil fuels and toward wind turbines, solar power, and even more creative options, including the United Kingdom, which is now powered by renewables more than by other sources.
Wind turbines have received significant pushback from opponents who claim they kill native bird populations, despite being one of the best sources of renewable energy. It is a valid criticism; research has shown that collisions with turbine blades do kill birds, albeit at a much lower rate than fossil-fueled power plants.
In an effort to reduce the ecological impact of wind turbines, IdentiFlight has developed a new smart camera system that detects the presence of birds, determines whether they are endangered, and shuts down the spinning blades before impact. According to a study published in the Journal of Applied Ecology, deploying a curtailment system near a wind turbine site resulted in an 82 percent decrease in Eagle fatalities, implying that camera systems could have a significant impact on saving protected bird species.
The study, which was conducted independently in Wyoming, USA, included 176 wind turbines from two different locations. The authors deployed 47 automated curtailment units across one of the sites, eventually covering the entire area by August 2019. Throughout the study, the authors swept the area for eagle carcasses to compare to control and pre-study numbers.
The results showed that deaths in the control site increased from previous levels, but decreased significantly in the camera sites. Following the addition of IdentiFlight, the number of eagle fatalities per year decreased by 62 percent, from around 7.5 to around 2.5. Over the same time period, fatalities increased at the control site.
“Avian collisions with turbine blades have long been an issue in the wind industry. To address this issue and promote the successful coexistence of avian wildlife and wind energy, the IdentiFlight avian detection technology was developed “According to Ben Quinn, Senior Vice President at IdentiFlight,
“We now have conclusive evidence that IdentiFlight can be used as a mitigation and reduction solution for existing and future wind projects.”
The system employs a camera tower that is strategically placed to cover multiple wind turbines in its vicinity and can detect and track pre-set protected bird species. The towers detect incoming birds with optical sensors and use artificial intelligence to determine their trajectory and speed, adjusting the turbines’ motion accordingly. According to IdentiFlight, their system can detect protected species from up to one kilometer away.
IdentiFlight now hopes that their system, and similar systems, can be used on a large scale to help save more endangered avian species. However, it may be a difficult pill for many turbine companies to swallow, with an Identiflight system costing $150,000 (£110,000) to install plus $8,000 per year in maintenance, according to Bat Drone Shield’s cost analysis.