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12 Jul 2021, 13:23
Benjamin Wehrmann

Bird protection pilot site hoped to boost wind power in southern Germany

Clean Energy Wire

Researchers in Germany are testing ways to ensure a safer coexistence of many bird species with the growing number of onshore wind turbines, one of the key environmental dilemmas the country is facing in its bid to achieve climate neutrality well before the middle of century. At the world's first integrated wind and environmental protection testing site (WINSENT) in southwestern Germany, radar, cameras and microphones track the movements of birds, bats and larger insects, research institute ZSW said. The researchers aim to find out how the number of birds that collide with fast-moving wind turbine blades can be reduced. With data like the average flight speed of different species the researchers hope to enable better predictions when turbines should be turned off or throttled when the animals are approaching. "Our goal is to develop a cheap, robust and very reliable system that can also be used to retrofit existing wind farms," said ZSW's Frank Musiol. This could also help avoid the need to shut down turbines when there is no real threat to birds or other species, he added.

Species like the red kite are at risk of getting killed by the blades, which has led to calls that areas with a higher density of animals, such as forests, should be protected from wind turbine construction, thereby intensifying the pressure to provide sufficient space to implement the country's renewable energy expansion plans. At the testing site, which is also used to optimise turbine output in rugged onshore terrains, the researchers also study how the construction of wind farms impacts breeding behaviour and other indirect effects of the technology on the local faunae. With their results, the researchers hope to contribute to a faster rollout of wind power in southern Germany, which so far trails the northern states significantly in this regard.

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