Innovation

🦅 A simple improvement to wind turbines can greatly reduce bird deaths

One of the main concerns for many people in wind power is the effect it can have on bird populations. It turns out a simple coat of black paint makes an enormous difference.

🦅 A simple improvement to wind turbines can greatly reduce bird deaths

A study that was run in the Smøla region of Norway has shown that a simple practice can significantly reduce the number of birds and bats that are killed by wind power turbines.

Wind power has grown incredibly in recent years. In 2019 alone, more than 60gw of new energy generation was added globally.  Wind power is reliably cheaper than fossil fuels and, of course, far better for the environment.

However, many people are still not proponents for wind as a renewable source of energy because of statistics showing the deadly effect they can have on avian populations.  The United States Fish and Wildlife Service estimated that around 300,000 birds were killed wind turbines in 2015.  

Of course, what many of the adversaries of wind power fail to report is that anywhere from 8 million to 57 million birds are killed each year (in the U.S. alone) due to collisions with electric utility lines.

Researchers in Norway began a study into what solutions could be implemented to reduce the number of bird deaths.  Their idea was simple.  They decided to paint one of the turbines black in an effort to create a visible contrast against the sky that birds could then avoid. The painted turbine was applied to four turbines in the test group.

Image credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty Images via Ars Technica

After nine years, the study has revealed very encouraging results.  Annual bird deaths have been reduced by 70% over the duration of the study.  Of course, the scope of the test group turbines at the Smøla wind farm is very small by comparison to the number of turbines in the world, but the percentage reductions in the results make it clear that this is a simple fix that can be quickly applied on a massive scale.

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