The Benefit of Painting Wind Turbine Blades

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One of the major pushes of environmentalists in recent years has been transitioning more of Europe to clean energy. Generally speaking, wind turbines are considered a very clean former of power. However, even wind turbines have an ecological impact: bird strikes.

Birds hit turbines somewhat often, as their white turbine blades can blend in with clouds.

A bird in full flight striking a metal structure is unlikely to survive the impact. This has led to a grim reality among wind farms: dead birds are part of the job.

There are, however, a few ways this can be addressed. One of the most successful, unsurprisingly, is to just paint the turbine blades.

The Risk of Turbines

Turbines can pose a threat to wildlife, leading to some opposition to their production. In Norway, for instance, between six and nine white-tailed eagles are killed in turbine strikes annually.

While this might not sound like a large number, white-tailed eagles are rare birds. Any human structures that cause needless death among endangered wildlife are an issue for environmentalists.

Researchers have noticed that birds of prey are the most likely bird to strike turbines. Since hunting birds move at high rates of speed and often dive for prey, they’re more likely to impact turbine blades at deadly speeds. For environmentalists, this is something that needs to be addressed.

Potential Solutions

New research shows that one of the most promising potential solutions is to paint the turbines’ blades black. One study shows that bird strikes are reduced by seventy percent after just one blade is painted black on each turbine on a farm.

This would be a relatively inexpensive fix for wind farms in the Netherlands and South Africa that have expressed interest in reducing their ecological impact.

Scientists explain that the black turbine blade reduces bird strikes by increasing the visible “motion smear” of the blade movement. This means that when a bird sees the blades in motion, the black blade gives the appearance of fast motion.

Picture looking at a ceiling fan. Rather than seeing the individual fan blades, you see a blur of motion, like a perfect circle. Birds can’t see this if turbine blades are unpainted, but painting just one of the blades black can cause this to occur.

Researchers noted that this theory needs more testing in the field. Initial findings may have been influenced by the research site and the species of birds native to the area. However, this solution seems to be a promising way to reduce bird strikes.