Protecting wildlife and existing ecosystems is a growing concern as renewable energy projects spread across the country. Environmentalists are often torn between the issues of climate change and conservation.
The Peñascal Wind Farm in Texas, a 202-MW wind farm that lies right on a heavily-traveled migration path, has found a way to balance both. It has started using powerful radar technology developed for NASA and the Air Force that detects birds flying four miles away and stops the turbines if there is a danger of the birds flying into the blades.
The radar analyzes weather conditions, the birds' altitude, numbers and visibility to determine if the birds will fly in the path of the blades. During inclement weather, birds fly lower than in normal conditions and can become disoriented, which raises the risk of them flying into the turbines. During normal weather, birds usually fly well above the height of the wind farm. Once the birds have passed, the radar system restarts the turbines.
During the fall of 2007, a study showed about 4,000 birds an hour passed over the Peñascal farm, but nationally only about 7,000 birds are killed each year by turbines. The risk to birds posed by wind farms is still low compared to other obstacles during migration, but it will definitely need to be a consideration as more wind farms are built and this radar system seems like a great solution.
written by Seth, May 05, 2009
written by Fred, July 08, 2009
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