For the first time ever, offshore windmills shut down to give way to migrating birds

Netherlands government said that the move was in line with its approach to focus on biodiversity and ecology in offshore wind farms.
Sejal Sharma
Wind power by the sea
Wind power by the sea

ma li/iStock 

Offshore wind farms are often placed in large open spaces, away from houses and buildings, so they don’t get in the way of birds’ migratory paths. The anti-wind lobby continues to draw attention to the number of birds killed yearly due to the spinning blades.

This is why offshore windmills near Borssele and Egmond aan Zee in the Netherlands were shut down for four hours on May 13, also World Migratory Bird Day. The Dutch government said that was the first time in the world that a country had taken up such a measure.

But the move wasn’t just to commemorate World Migratory Bird Day but was made after it was predicted that a massive bird migration would occur above the North Sea. By giving the migrating birds a safe passage, the government said that the move aligned with its approach to focus on biodiversity and ecology in offshore wind farms.

It is expected that beginning Autumn 2023, wind farms will be shut down more often in the Netherlands to allow migratory birds a safe passage through the wind farms, and the speed of the wind turbines is expected to be reduced to a maximum of two rotations per minute during the night peak time.

Minister for Climate and Energy Policy of the Netherlands, Rob Jetten, said in a statement: “This is an international first, nowhere in the world are wind farms at sea shut down to protect birds during massive bird migration. We want to keep the impact of wind farms on nature as small as possible and we do this with this measure, among other things. All parties involved have worked well together and set this up in a relatively short time, so a great initiative that I am very proud of.”

The statement also lauds the efforts of a Ph.D. student at the University of Amsterdam who came up with a bird migration prediction model to predict when the birds will travel two days in advance. The model uses weather forecasts and various bird radars in the North Sea. Two days is ample time to inform all the parties involved in shutting down the turbines in the windmill compound.

Every year, thousands of different types of birds migrate, and some meet the tragic fate of a windmill fan. And with the rapid speed at which the wind energy sector is growing, the killings will likely go higher. The wind energy capacity has grown significantly over the years, with countries preferring wind turbines over fossil fuels, as the former doesn’t release emissions.

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