Scientists believe in an incredible and simple solution for bird collisions into wind turbines, painting one blade black.
William Hodos first researched preventative measures for bird collisions in 2003. Hodos believes the primary reason birds collide with turbines is because of motion smear. Motion smear is when objects become less visible with rapid speed. The study uses multiple different patterns on turbine blades and tested birds’ reactions. His findings showed birds were 2 times more likely to notice and therefore avoid turbines when one blade was black and the others were white.
A 2020 study from Norway, affirmed the efficacy of painting one blade black. Researchers found a 70% death rate reduction when birds entered the vicinity of the marked turbines.
The Pacific Corp is partnering with the U.S. Geological Survey, Renewable Energy Wildlife Institute, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department are undergoing a similar and more extensive study to further support the effects of painting one wind turbine blade black to reduce the risks to birds flying near wind projects. PacificCorp is aiming to quadruple its solar and wind renewable energy systems by 2032 and minimizing the effects of bird pests is a key part to making sure the future of clean energy.
(Solar Netting is an already incredible deterrent for solar panel protection from pests.)
Alex Banks, an ornithologist working on bird conservation for Natural England, gives insight as to why marine birds are collision prone to wind turbines. Banks says, “Their evolution, I suppose, hasn’t primed them necessarily to expect obstacles in their foraging space. These species may benefit from painting the turbine towers as well as the blades with noticeable patterns.”
Banks proposes alternative means to stop birds from colliding with wind turbines like laser deterrents. These systems can be put on a timer or motion detection to turn on a display of laser effects that scare and confuse all birds. He also recommended finding the natural altitude birds fly in the region and make sure the height of the blades are not in that zone to minimize chances of collision.
Wind turbines are an important source of renewable energy for residential, commercial and government use. Making them clean and protected from pests flying into them is a key part to a future with better energy sources.