Painting Wind Turbines Black Can Reduce Bird Deaths by 70%

The research could provide another great reason to embrace clean wind power!
Loukia Papadopoulos

Wind power has many undeniable benefits: it is reliable, it is clean and as of late it is getting much cheaper. According to the World Wind Energy Association, the overall capacity of all wind turbines installed worldwide by the end of 2019 reached 650,8 Gigawatt.

However, some people claim that wind turbines are dangerous due to their impact on flying fauna such as birds and bats. Pro-oil politicians like Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin blame wind power for bird deaths with Trump going so far as to call wind turbines bird graveyards. 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has stated that the "most comprehensive and statistically sound estimates show that bird deaths from turbine collisions are between 140,000 and 500,000 birds per year."


Now, a new study has come along that may just save the day and the birds. The research, conducted at a wind farm on the Norwegian archipelago of Smøla, found that changing the color of even just a single blade on a turbine from white to black saw a 70% reduction in bird deaths.

Painting Wind Turbines Black Can Reduce Bird Deaths by 70%
Source: Ecology and Evolution

Why is this? It turns out that birds are not very visually aware when flying. They have a hard time spotting obstacles and therefore do not see the twirling turbines, flying directly into them.

Changing one blade to a darker color like black would make wind turbines much more visible. In 2013, at the Smøla wind farm, researchers selected four turbines to be in a control group and another four to be in a test group. Each one of the test group turbines had a single blade painted black.

In the three years that followed, the researchers tracked bird deaths and found only six birds dead due to striking the test group's turbine blades. However, the control group registered a whopping 18 bird deaths. This represents a 71.9% reduction in the annual fatality rate for the test group.

The study is published in the journal Ecology and Evolution.

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