Vattenfall starts pilot with infrared cameras on Hollandse Kust Zuid wind turbine for improved bird casualty counts

Vattenfall is starting a study in which one of the turbines of wind farm Hollandse Kust Zuid will be equipped with 16 infrared cameras. The use of the cameras should improve bird casualty counts from offshore wind farms.

Currently, theoretical models are used to estimate the number of casualties, but there are few actual observations to support these models. Every year many millions of birds migrate across the North Sea during spring and fall migration. On fine days, songbirds and waders fly hundreds of meters high, but in bad weather they stay closer to the surface and therefore come within range of the turbine blades. Mortality estimates are difficult to verify because carcasses fall into the sea and drift away.

The study helps to better understand the number of bird deaths and the conditions under which collisions occur.

Cameras deployed at sea for first time

The deployment of cameras can help better track bird casualties. The technology has previously been used at onshore wind farms, but this is the first time the cameras will be deployed at sea.

“Wind industry and conservationists both benefit from understanding how turbines affect bird populations. With this trial, we are testing promising camera and AI technology to improve casualty counts: how many are there and under what conditions do they happen? In the longer term, a better understanding of the risks will provide realistic predictions for newly built wind farms and help refine the procedures that ensure turbines can be shut down at the right times.” – Jesper Kyed Larsen, bioscience expert at Vattenfall

16 infrared cameras

For this research, one of the turbines of wind farm Hollandse Kust Zuid will be equipped with 16 infrared cameras covering all corners of the turbine. The cameras work 24/7 and use AI and special software to detect falling objects and select the relevant images. The cameras also work at night and in bad weather, such as rain or fog. They can spot small birds up to a distance of about 120 meters. For large birds, the camera’s range is up to 300 meters. The camera and AI solution are provided by Wildlife Imaging Systems; they will be installed by Circle Consult Aps.

The study will begin in August and last a year. It focuses on the autumn and spring migration periods and is conducted in cooperation with Wageningen Environmental Research, which is part of Wageningen University & Research (WUR).

Source: Vattenfall (original in Dutch) Explanation of image: Bird flights around a wind turbine captured by the camera systems. The image is a summary of 5 minutes of video in a single image. The yellow parts of the image are birds recorded by the software. Source: Wildlife Imaging Systems.

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