New technology to detect and prevent eagles from colliding with rotating wind turbine blades will be applied in Australia for the first time – at Goldwind Australia’s Cattle Hill Wind Farm in the Central Highlands of Tasmania.
Goldwind said on Tuesday it was installing the IdentiFlight aerial monitoring and detection system at the wind farm – currently under construction – to mitigate its impact on the endangered Tasmanian Wedge-tailed Eagle.
A total of 16 tower mounted IdentiFlight units will be installed at the 144MW wind farm, in locations strategically designed to detect eagles and shut down any of the 48 turbines as necessary.
Goldwind says the technology works within seconds to alert the system to an approaching eagle, by detecting and photographing flying objects, and then using algorithms to identify them.
If an eagle’s speed and flight path indicate a risk of collision with a wind turbine, an alert is generated to shut down a specific wind turbine.
The move comes at a time of massive growth in Australian wind farm development, with a huge number of projects being built in the race to meet Australia’s 33,000GWh by 2020 Renewable Energy Target.
And it comes as reminders emerge that public and policy support for wind farms in this country has not always been forthcoming.
Just last week, South Australia’s SA-Best Party rekindled calls for an independent inquiry into the human health impacts of wind farms, and demanded an “urgent” ban on all new developments in the state until it was carried out.
Death and injury caused to birds by wind farms is another common complaint against the technology, although solid figures on this – in particular, in comparison to other energy technologies – are not easy to come by.
A 2017 article by Simon Chapman, published in The Conversation, noted that while wind turbine blades do indeed kill birds and bats, studies show their contribution to total bird deaths is extremely low.
RenewEconomy asked Goldwind Australia if eagle deaths from wind turbines had been a big problem for the company, but had not heard back before publication.
“Goldwind Australia understands the importance of balancing the need for clean, renewable energy whilst protecting Tasmania’s unique wildlife, particularly the endangered Tasmanian Wedge-tailed Eagle,” said Goldwind Australia managing director, John Titchen, in comments on Tuesday.
“We look forward to sharing the results of this first Australian trial following installation,” he said.
Tom Hiester the president of the company behind the IdentiFlight technology, said it was pleased to be partnering with China-based Goldwind.
“We developed IdentiFlight to promote the successful coexistence of avian wildlife and wind energy,” Hiester said.
“Results from IdentiFlight trials on wind farms in the US have demonstrated its effectiveness in mitigating impacts on the iconic bald and golden eagles,” he said.
As we reported here, construction of Cattle Hill kicked off in May, with the first wind turbine foundation expected to be poured soon.
The project was also establishing a community fund, that will donate $120,000 a year into the local community – a practice that is becoming par for the course with major wind and solar developments, to help establish a robust social licence.