Black Turbine Blades Reduced Bird Mortality By 72%

August 27, 2020

Despite the environmental benefits we get from using the wind to generate renewable energy, there was always a somewhat depressing side effect that left environmentalists slightly torn when advocating for wind power. The trade off was that turbines worldwide killed an estimated 300,000 birds per year. The macabre reality is that this is, well, worth it to most people, who point towards the expectation that using turbines saves ecosystems, and thus, not just birds but many animals. However, this blemish on wind-powers otherwise outstanding record got researchers thinking about creative solutions to decrease the mortality rate.

Researchers from the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research sought after a cheap and effective way to mitigate these deaths due t turbine collision. What they found is that simply by painting one of the three blades of a turbine black, they could reduce bird death from turbine collisions by 71.9%. To quote Bard Stokke, a lead author for the study, "[The] hope is therefore that these measures, given their positive effects on birds and the fact that they are relatively simple and low cost, will be used in future wind energy developments both in Norway and abroad"

The study was conducted in a 68-turbine farm on Norway's coast, using trained bird-retrieving dogs to record fatalities. By painting one blade black, birds began perceiving the turbines as physical obstacles, drastically reducing fatalities. Although turbines killed fewer birds than other anthropogenic projects such as power lines or cars, the rapidly growing industry still took heat from bird advocates and proponents of the fossil fuel sector. This study serves to remove another barrier in progressing towards a sustainable future by mitigating a chief argument in anti-wind power sentiments.

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