Further study into turbine location
The main solution for lowering the risk of bird collisions is properly studying a potential site before building a wind farm. The FWS is currently developing a scientific method for proper siting that may help wind farm developers avoid or mitigate the negative impact to birds’ habitat and migration patterns.
Developing turbine design
Turbine developers have also experimented with the turbine design in an effort to lower the risk of bird collision. One method has been to install lighting on the turbines, although this has not yielded significant improvement. A more advanced technique is to use radar and GPS technologies to detect nearby flocks and turn the turbine blades off to minimize danger for the incoming birds.
Developers have also experimented with how different colored turbines affect bird collisions. A 2010 study theorized purple wind turbines might cut down on the number of nearby insects and thereby reduce the number of birds as well.
Another potential improvement to current turbines is the Bat Deterrent System, developed by NRG Systems. Bats – another common victim of wind turbines – use echolocation to navigate their surroundings. The Bat Deterrent System produces an ultrasonic acoustic field that repels the bats away from the turbines. While this system sounds promising for many bat species, NRG says birds are not able to hear ultrasound, and so this innovation will likely have little impact on the amount of bird deaths.
Some companies are composing research into the flight patterns of several bird species. Using a GPS chip, these companies are able to track birds’ motions as they fly in the hopes of being able to develop smarter turbine blades in the future.
Caitlin Ritchie is a writer within the energy and power industry. Born in Georgia, she attended the University of Georgia before earning her master’s in English at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.