Wind Energy: Bird kills on the radar

A colleague of mine said to me recently, “No energy is clean energy.”

Which got me thinking. Of course, Clean Coal comes to mind. And people love to say that “No coal is clean,” and “Clean Coal is an oxymoron.”

OK, OK. It’s not the best marketing term I’ve ever heard. There is a U.S. Department of Energy program that uses the term, and that program has funded gasification and carbon sequestration projects. So there is such a thing, whatever you want to call it. How about “Clean(er) Coal”?

Then I thought about wind. Big, majestic, white turbines … cutting up birds that fly into them. Whoops. That’s not very clean.

But you can lessen the impact of bird kills by making sure you don’t site turbines along migratory bird paths. Even the Audubon Society has come out in support of well-positioned wind.

Which brings me to radar — some bird-friendly technology now in the works.

Alternative Energy News reports that a new wind farm in Texas, operated by a Spanish firm, is using radar technology developed by a Florida firm called DeTect Inc. How’s that for collaboration?

The radar, much like a cop scanning the highway, looks for approaching birds, analyzes weather conditions and shuts down the turbines if necessary. The blades are reactivated once the flock has passed.

The radar is in use here, according to AEN, because the wind farm was constructed on the Central Flyway, a main route for migratory birds. Environmental groups are skeptical.

What do you think? Is using radar technology to save birds OK? Even if the technology is needed due to bad planning?

This radar could help spur more wind development and remove a barrier to breeze power. DeTect also makes bird deterrent devices for wind farms, including bioacoustics and propane cannons, according to the company’s Web site.

Bird kills are a controversial subject, so let’s hear it.

Have any Question or Comment?

6 comments on “Wind Energy: Bird kills on the radar

Steven Arnold

I found the idea of using Radar to “protect” birds from wind farms extremely interesting and have responded to it on my blog

Bob Sell

The use of radar for protecting birds is expensive overkill. Iridescent white paint with black images of hawks chasing Owls slowly in a circular path should be enough to deter even them most stubborn flock of geese.

By the way, has no one thought to use vertical axis cylindrical impellers for wind turbines? Hint: can you tell us the last time that a goose flew into the side of a silo? We have plenty of both in Wisconsin, and no such records. We give birds too little credit. They do have brains and they will change course around any obstacle that they can see. Even better, give those owls and hawks each a pair of very bright red LED eyes. Then you could put such a system right in the middle of Horicon Marsh with no incidents.

Our company has been installing meteorological towers for large wind development for a while now, and have a few more reasons to like the radar. These met. towers are cumbersome to transport, and usually require a backhoe to dig anchor holes for tower guy wires. Having to get a back hoe to a site shortens the available seasons to construct towers. Sodar, as we it, will replace these towers soon, but for the time being, nobody will finance large projects off of sodar alone. Once it’s accepted, met. towers will fade into the past. Sodar is mobile, low impact – no dead birds in the testing for wind farm locations, and no new roads created by the truck and back hoe making multiple trips to and from the site. Due to severe winter conditions, many met. towers collapse during the course of winter, where a Sodar station would continue as normal. As a tower company, the cost to have us install and maintain Sodar systems such as ones from Second Wind would drastically reduce our costs, which in turn trickles through the process, speeding up the research for wind energy development, and cutting the over all cost at the same time. Sodar’s the near future.


Thanks for the info on Sodar.


Try geothermal. It is reliable (unlike wind) and it doesn’t chop up birds.

[…] | Tags: Alternative Energy, Energy, Israel, renewable energy, turbines, Wind, Windpower In a recent article byJeff in the Cleantechies blog he writes about the new technology that utilizes radar to track bird […]

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