Painting wind turbines at Smøla
An experiment of huge dimensions has started at Smøla wind farm. Several wind turbines will be painted to make them more visible to birds, thus reducing the risk of collisions.
Never before has a trial of this nature been carried out with such thorough scientific follow-up. The INTACT project, which is a collaboration between several players in the power industry and government administration, aims to confirm whether contrast painting might lead to fewer birds being killed by onshore and offshore wind farms.
“Countless hours of research have been spent on this issue since the Smøla wind farm was completed in 2005, and there are few places in the world where so much is known about bird behaviour in the vicinity of wind power generation,” says biologist and senior environmental advisor Bjørn Iuell at Statkraft.
Norway’s largest wind farm
Smøla wind farm is located in Smøla municipality in the county of Møre og Romsdal. The wind farm consists of 68 wind turbines with an overall capacity of 150 MW, and is situated in a flat and open terrain, 10-40 m above sea level. The average annual production is 356 GWh, enough to supply 17 800 Norwegian homes with electricity. Statkraft will build on its experience from Smøla in its further major investments in offshore wind power, which represents one of the greatest and most promising opportunities within renewable energy in Europe.
Statkraft is just one of several parties involved in the research on birds. Energy Norway is the project owner, while Statoil, Vattenfall, Trønder Energi Kraft, NVE and NINA are partners in the project, which also receives support from the Research Council of Norway.
In order to prevent large birds such as white-tailed eagles from flying into the wind turbines, four turbines will have one of three rotor blades painted black. Every year some white-tailed eagles collide with the rotor blades and are found dead on the ground. To prevent collisions with smaller birds, like the local Smøla grouse, researchers will look at whether increased contrast at the lower part of the turbine tower might reduce the problem.
“Smaller birds, like grouse and ducks, fly lower than for instance white-tailed eagles, and we think more visible turbine towers might prevent collisions,” Iuell explains.
Warning the birds with UV light
In addition to the paint experiments, similar tests will be carried out with UV light. Birds can see UV light much better than people do, and installing UV lamps on one or more wind turbines can make them more visible. If the trial proves successful, one might also test out UV-reflecting paint, which is invisible to the human eye, but highly visible to birds.
“The idea of using some sort of paint is certainly very interesting,” says Iuell.
“There are some methods on the market today, most of them still in the experimental phase, which are intended to scare birds away from wind turbines. The problem is that most of them depend on both power supply and advanced technology, and this makes them less practical for offshore use, for instance. Paint is much simpler. It can be applied to the installations during the production phase, with no additional resources needed for operation and maintenance. No wonder, then, that this project is being watched by many research and industry groups around the world,” says Iuell.