Using Radar to Protect Birds from Wind Farms
The new Peñascal wind farm in Texas hopes to become a model for responsible development by installing new radar technology to protect migratory birds and wildlife. According to recent studies, wind farms kill about 7,000 birds a year, although actual numbers are thought to be much higher. The new 202MW wind farm, operated by Spanish firm Iberdrola Renewables, uses radar technology developed by Florida based DeTect, Inc.
The same technology was originally developed for NASA and the US Air Force. It can detect approaching birds up to four miles away and assess their altitude, numbers and visibility. It then analyzes weather conditions to determine if they are in danger of flying into wind turbine blades. If so, the turbines are programmed to automatically shut down and restart once the birds are a safe distance away.
The Peñascal wind farm is located on the Central Flyway, a main route for migratory birds in the Americas. Millions of birds funnel through the narrow air corridor during the semiannual migration. A study in the autumn of 2007 found 4,000 birds an hour passing overhead.
Conservationists who have fought against wind farms because of their impact on wildlife remain skeptical of this apparent ‘easy fix’. They argue that wind farms should be placed away from migratory routes to begin with, and that the new technology still does not address the disturbance of wildlife habitat and nesting grounds in the vicinity.