Vattenfall installs cameras on HKZ turbine for research on bird casualties at sea

Vattenfall will use cameras to improve bird casualty counts from offshore wind farms. At present, theoretical models are used to estimate the number of casualties, but there are few actual observations to support these models. The research is taking place at the Hollandse Kust Zuid wind farm.

Each year, many millions of birds migrate across the North Sea during spring and fall migration. Estimates of the number of deaths are difficult to monitor because carcasses fall into the sea and drift away. The use of cameras can help keep better track of bird casualties. The technology has previously been used at land-based wind farms, but this is the first time the cameras have been deployed at sea.

Jesper Kyed Larsen, bioscience expert at Vattenfall: “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 counting: how many are there and under what conditions does it happen? In the longer term, a better understanding of risk will provide realistic predictions for new wind farms to be built and help refine curtailment procedures so that turbines can be shut down at the right times.”

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.

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 infrared 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 fall and spring migration periods and is conducted in cooperation with Wageningen Environmental Research, part of Wageningen University & Research (WUR).

Shutting down wind turbines

Every year large numbers of land birds migrate along or across the North Sea. They are on their way from breeding grounds to wintering grounds, or on their way back. 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.

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Vattenfall generates and supplies electricity, heating, cooling and gas as well as offering customers a variety of sustainable solutions. Vattenfall want to achieve fossil-free energy generation within one generation. This Swedish energy company is investing heavily in wind energy to achieve this aim. We are working towards a sustainable world, for now and in the future.