How to protect Eagles from wind turbines?
South Africa’s Verreaux’s eagles have a problem. The very landscapes they favor, where the air currents along vast ridges carry them as they soar, are prime locations for wind farm developers – who want to make use of exactly the same resource.
“At least 24 carcasses have been picked up under wind turbines,” says Dr. Megan Murgatroyd, from Hawkwatch International. “For this species, in particular, it seems to be quite a conflict.”
Sometimes the birds die when they collide with the swiftly spinning blades of the turbines, which are difficult for them to see. Or, they get electrocuted by power lines at the wind farms.
Dr. Murgatroyd Mission to save Birds and Eagles from Wind Turbines?
Dr. Murgatroyd is on a mission to stop this from happening and she’s decided to work with wind energy companies in order to find ways of reducing fatalities.
Around the world, wind energy on and offshore is gathering momentum. In May, the International Energy Agency announced that the amount of wind energy capacity added worldwide in 2020, 114 GW, was nearly double the additions made in 2019.
But many worry that not enough is being done to prevent the deaths of thousands of animals. Even though the rise of renewables is generally seen as good news in the fight against climate change.
That was underlined just days ago when a bearded vulture, released into the wild last year in southern France, was killed by a wind turbine
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How Dr Megan Murgatroyd is helping to save Birds and Eagles?
To help Dr. Murgatroyd and her colleagues have come up with a commercial tool that tells developers where Verreaux’s eagles are most likely to fly within a given area so that the firms can position their wind turbines away from those places.
It’s based on tracking data she collected after fitting GPS devices to more than a dozen eagles. The tool also needs to consider where eagle nests are located. So surveys to plot these must be carried out in and around any land earmarked for new wind turbines.
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To try and validate the tool’s recommendations, Dr Murgatroyd has used it to analyse the locations of wind turbines that were built before the technology was available. This revealed that many eagle fatalities associated with those turbines occurred in places that the model would correctly have labelled as high risk.
“If the model had been used, up to 79% of [those deaths] could have been avoided,” she says.