Dutch wind farms temporarily halted for bird migration

The offshore wind turbines at the Borssele III and IV wind farm, as well as those at other wind farms in the Netherlands, were turned down for four hours on May 13, 2023, in a ground-breaking measure to protect bird migration.

By implementing this safeguard for the first time, the Dutch government and participating businesses show their dedication to giving ecology and biodiversity first priority in offshore wind farms. The objective is to ensure the safety of migratory birds so as to lessen the potential negative effects of wind farms on the environment.

The campaign, organized by wind farm owners, calls for limiting turbine rotational speed to no more than two revolutions per minute during anticipated peak migration at night. A bird migration prediction model created by a PhD student at the University of Amsterdam (UvA) in late 2022 makes it possible to anticipate bird migration. The model makes use of weather information and bird radars situated in the North Sea, and it also incorporates predictions from a group of migratory bird specialists. With two days’ notice, grid operator TenneT may make sure the high-voltage system is stable and notify all necessary parties to start the turbine shutdown.

Reducing negative environmental effects

Rob Jetten, the minister of climate and energy policy, lauded this international first and reaffirmed the government’s commitment to reducing the negative environmental effects of wind farms. The coordinated actions and effective shutdown execution show a remarkable initiative. All parties engaged were pleased with how well the wind farm owners, researchers, and government organizations collaborated.

It is in keeping with the rising significance of ecological responsibility and reducing the ecological impact on the North Sea that turbines are temporarily turned down during bird migration. The relevance of eco-friendly techniques is emphasized by Tim van Oijen of Vogelbescherming Nederland (the Netherlands Bird Protection Society), who also emphasizes the necessity of minimizing the effects of wind farms on the North Sea during the twice-yearly huge bird migrations.

Pilot stage

This measure is now in the pilot stage, but before it is formally implemented in the fall of 2023, more adjustments and improvements will be made. The government, the University of Amsterdam, and the wind industry have been working together continuously to increase the effectiveness of the measure. Numerous parties were involved in the procedure’s development, which Rijkswaterstaat carried out on behalf of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate, including the owners of wind farms, the grid operator TenneT, the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature, and Food Quality, Vogelbescherming Nederland, and the North Sea Foundation.

The implementation of this ground-breaking shutdown strategy serves as a role model for the offshore wind industry globally, demonstrating the dedication to environmental protection and renewable energy production. The Netherlands is setting the bar for achieving a balance between the generation of renewable energy and the preservation of biodiversity by including ethical standards and taking into account the impact on migrating birds.

Image source: Eneco

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