Sea birds now accustomed to dodging offshore wind turbine blades, says study

The $3 million study found that sea birds displayed avoidance behavior from 40 to 160 meters from the tips of rotor blades.
Baba Tamim
Stock photo: Two sea swans fly past a wind turbine.
Stock photo: Two sea swans fly past a wind turbine.


Vattenfall, a Swedish energy company, has conducted a €3 million ($3.1 million) two-year study of seabirds at its 11-turbine Aberdeen Offshore Wind Farm in Scotland.

The study conducted to better understand seabird flight behavior in an offshore wind farm gathered extensive data on seabird flying, according to European Offshore Wind Deployment Center. 

"This is the first time that any kind of bird species has been studied this closely and in detail at an offshore wind farm. And these birds are really good at avoiding the turbines. Now we need studies on more varieties," said Henrik Skov, project lead. 

The research is a component of a larger initiative to stop wind farms from being built near flight paths.

Vattenfall was able to identify seabird species, produce a three-dimensional depiction of their flight patterns, and understand how they avoid the rotor blades of offshore wind turbines by fusing radar data with cameras.

While bird activity is at its peak, from April to October, the movements of herring gulls, gannets, kittiwakes, and great black-backed gulls were carefully observed.

No recorded collision

According to the study, there were no recorded collisions between birds and rotor blades.

The study found that while gannets and great black-backed gulls only displayed avoidance behavior at 40 and 50 meters from the tips of rotor blades, herring gulls and kittiwakes, both displayed horizontal avoidance behavior between 90 and 110 meters and 140 to 160 meters from rotor blades, respectively.

Vattenfall claims the model can and should be applied to more varieties of seabirds as well as to onshore wind farms, even though the study only focused on four bird species.

The study's conclusions are supported by the study's video data, which consists of 10,000 footage of birds flying through the Aberdeen Offshore Wind Farm.

Skov stated that the information gathered can be utilized to enhance knowledge of seabird behavior near wind farms. 

According to Skov, this is the first time that any species of bird has been thoroughly and closely examined in an offshore wind farm, and the results emphasize the value of additional research on the behavior of birds.

The European Offshore Wind Deployment Center, also known as the Aberdeen Offshore Wind Farm, has a 93.2 Megawatt capacity and started operations in 2018. Vattenfall and a number of other businesses collaborated to build the wind farm.

The Swedish government owns Vattenfall, one of the biggest electrical producers in the continent. Many nations, including Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, and the UK, are home to the company's wind farms. 

The study was first published here.