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In the recent NPR Fresh Air podcast The Extraordinary Lives Of Migratory Birds

Author Scott Weidensaul talks about the millions of birds flying unseen over our heads in the night sky, how the bar-tailed godwit can fly more than a week over water without stopping, and how new tracking technology may help with strategies to keep them alive. His book is A World on the Wing.

At about 33:48:

Davies: Is there anything you can do to mitigate the harm of wind farms that are in critical locations?

Weidensaul: There are! And in fact in one of the things that's being experimented with is equipping wind farms with artificial intelligence and radar capabilities, so that when the IA and the radar detect a large number of birds moving in they shut down the wind farms.

Or in some cases actually in places where there are large endangered birds like California Condors in North America and some species of old world vultures, even just detecting a single large vulture moving into a wind farm will theoretically be able to turn off the turbines in those areas.

Question: Which wind farms are using advanced technology such as radar, artificial intelligence and other tracking information to shut down wind farm turbines when risks are highest for migratory and endangered birds?


Potentially helpful resources:

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  • Interesting topic, but asking for a list of things is often not the best type of question, unless you are sure the list is very small and will remain so in the near future. Is there a specific reason why you are asking this? Anyway, I'll provide an answer.
    – THelper
    Apr 3 at 7:19
  • @THelper Since there is nothing here in Sustainability SE about AI-based shutting down of wind farms during peak bird fluxes, and I don't know anything more about the topic than what I've cited nor how it could be narrowed down, I decided this would likely turn out to be a reasonably-scoped question. Since the first thing Weidensaul mentioned was only experimental (not really "using" as much as "testing") and the second was only "theoretical", I had a hunch the number of instances where either was really "in use" would be quite small, perhaps not a list at all.
    – uhoh
    Apr 3 at 8:26
  • That said, I'm happy to try to find a way to narrow the question further, but now that you've posted an answer my hands are somewhat tied. I'll await your further instructions.
    – uhoh
    Apr 3 at 8:26
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    :-) If you think you'll get the answer you want with the question as it is now, then let's leave it. If we end up getting a lot of answers we may close the question as too broad but I suspect that will not happen soon (if it happens at all).
    – THelper
    Apr 3 at 8:42
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    There are proposals and a few test stages, but nothing really operational in Germany. The same goes for bats. Currently WTG simply can't (as in "aren't allowed to") be build in areas with high concentrations of migratory birds. Furthermore, certain agricultural events which lead to a concentration of endangered birds (e.g. cutting long grass) trigger a shut down of the WTG in the vincinity for 3 days. This is quite common for newly planned turbines, but the farmer has to annouce it to the operator of the WTG and the shutdown is done manually. Shutdown for bats follow a similar general approach
    – Erik
    Apr 5 at 12:34

1 Answer 1

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The Netherlands

I am aware of 1 such wind farm in my country named 'Windpark Krammer'. This farm is located near 3 protected nature areas. According to their webpage that lists a few media articles (all in Dutch) they have a bird and bat detection system that uses cameras, microphones and speakers. I did not find a better description so I'm not sure how 'smart' this system really is. Other sources mention that these bird detection systems primarily target birds of prey such as eagles since those are large birds and easier to detect, are endangered species and run a much bigger risk of getting hit because they fly at higher altitudes than other birds. This Dutch news article mentions that the costs are about 120,000 euros per year.

There was a debate recently whether more wind farms here should be equipped with such a system after researchers saw an eagle equipped with a GPS tracking device got hit by a windmill, fall to the ground and crawl around for an hour before dying. I heard experiments are planned with a simpler and cheaper system used in Germany which is to paint the tip of one of the blades of a wind mill black.

IdentiFlight system

Some time ago I watched a BBC documentary on eagles where they briefly showed an AI system named IdentiFlight which was said to be 5 times better in detecting birds than humans. This system was applied at a wind farm in Wyoming.

The IdentiFlight website has a list of installations that mentions 8 locations in the US (including 2 in California and 2 in Wyoming), 1 in Tasmania, Australia, 1 in Sweden, 1 in France and multiple in Germany. The bottom of this webpage also mentions that the first installation was at the Duke Energy Renewables’ Top of the World Windpower Project in Wyoming.

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