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Wind farms are a powerful source of green energy, but they can have a devastating environmental impact on birds. They cause habitat loss through construction and displacement, and many birds die by collision with turbine blades. To try and reduce this impact, wind farms need comprehensive, full-coverage monitoring solutions. For many, radars and cameras are the answer.

Often, the right technology depends on individual needs and the unique requirements of each environment. Rather than choosing one system over another, it's first worth considering how cameras and radars can work together to reduce wind turbine bird deaths and overall bird collision incidents at wind farms. Integrating the two solutions could be key to the most substantial coverage for a wind farm in some cases.

Radars and cameras have their own strengths and weaknesses, and as a business, it’s up to you to decide which works best for you. And while they have their own specific applications that they excel at, we believe them to be complementary, depending on the specific needs and requirements of the project.

Discover how technology can reduce the environmental impact of wind farms on  birds. Read our eBook.

Cameras and Radars - The Key Differences

Radars

Pros

  • Radars have superior range, spanning kilometres, however a good line of sight is critical
  • Similarly, they’re able to have a much wider scope, and cover a larger area
  • Radars detect activity day or night
  • Radars can even work in fog conditions…

Cons

  • …however, their performance can be affected by adverse weather conditions such as heavy rain
  • They gather a lot of detailed data, which could be ineffective if not put to work proactively 
  • Radars can’t identify specific bird species, only bird size

Avian radars are suitable for bigger applications, larger wind farms, and overall perform better at a larger scale. Radars are excellent for understanding bird movement, helping wind farm operators undertake risk analysis and Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) during both planning and operational stages. 

Our radars continuously measure the number of birds that enter a set range from your wind turbines. They’re capable of initiating a total turbine shutdown – of an individual turbine or a group - when the number of birds in range crosses a designated threshold. They take many factors into account when creating rules to determine shutdown mechanism, including wind direction, bird behaviour, time of day, and the season.

Radars cover a wide area and collect a lot of data – how you use that data will depend on the individual scenario. But there are fewer limitations with radars in general. They can detect activity day or night, and on top of that, offshore bird radars are specifically designed to deal with harsh environments.

Our innovative bird radar, MAX, delivers unprecedented tracking capabilities that generate fully comprehensive 3D visualisations of flight paths.

Cameras

Pros

  • Cameras are ideal for smaller operations
  • They’re able to provide collision monitoring
  • Can be cheaper than radars, depending on your needs
  • Easy to set up and manage data

Cons

  • Limited range, even in clear conditions
  • Extra infrastructure is needed for additional angles and views
  • Coverage decreases as distance increases
  • Not effective in poor weather conditions

Cameras and radars work on opposite ends of the scale. Cameras are more suited to smaller operations and perform better with a limited number of turbines. The landscape makes a difference too – where radars are challenged by line of sight limitations, cameras are less affected at a short distance. Much like radars, cameras can include automated shutdown technology and use a combination of daylight and thermal imaging to achieve the best coverage.

Cameras are more effective at providing collision monitoring due to radars being affected by clutter and resonance coming from the turbines in the vicinity.

Depending on your needs, cameras are a more cost-effective option than radars. But, due to their limited range and additional infrastructure requirements, they’re not suited to large-scale operations.

Understand What Works for You

Every project is different. You need to account for the landscape, infrastructure challenges, whether you need to deploy offshore or onshore, and more. Neither radars nor cameras necessarily have more value than the other – it all depends on your requirements at the time.

By understanding your needs, you can make an informed decision on the technology that’s right for your wind farm. Integrated solutions have many applications, including:

  • Detection and monitoring
  • Tracking migratory patterns
  • Identifying bird species
  • Monitoring collisions
  • Mitigating collisions

In certain cases, integrating the two solutions will add value. When working in harmony, they can supplement each other's shortcomings. However, sometimes one or the other is sufficient. Understanding what kind of situation you’re dealing with, the data you need to extract, or the type of bird challenges you may have will help you decide what technology works for your wind farm.

Reducing Bird Mortality at Wind Farms