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At Robin Radar Systems, we understand the fears operators may have at shutting down their entire wind farm. Not to mention the effort and expense brought by numerous shutdowns.

This is why we have developed our radar technology to integrate seamlessly with your system, so that turbine uptime is optimised, unnecessary shutdowns are avoided, and bird species in your area are protected. 

With the world now in a state of climate emergency and on the brink of several disastrous tipping points, harnessing renewable energy from sustainable sources has never been more critical. At the same time, the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine has hastened Europe's move away from Russian oil and gas and towards more renewable energy sources.

Wind energy is vital to this undertaking and has increased exponentially in the past number of years at onshore and offshore wind farms. 

While wind farms are a practical and essential method of generating renewable energy, unfortunately, they can have some adverse environmental impacts on the local habitat. 

Displacement issues and significant habitat loss can occur at poorly sited wind farms, and spinning turbine blades also pose a lethal threat to birds. It's estimated that upwards of  100,000 to 450,000 birds are killed by turbines annually in the USA alone, while in the UK, approximately 10,000 to 100,000 birds are killed.

New technologies are always emerging to counteract this environmental consequence of wind farms. In recent years, one method that was proven incredibly effective at reducing bird mortality rates is automatic turbine shutdown. This smart curtailment technology integrates with the wind turbine system and automatically triggers all or specific turbines to shut down temporarily when bird activity increases in their proximity. 

But, to know when exactly to shut down their turbines, a wind farm operator has to be able to detect and monitor birds on their site, which is where bird detection radar comes into play. 

When bird radar is integrated seamlessly with automatic shutdown capability, the radar uses real-time data based on pre-configured rulesets to trigger the shutdown at the optimal moment and only for the exact time necessary. This significantly reduces the energy lost from curtailment and the cost to the operator. 

Wind farms without this unique technology are often forced to carry out 'blanket shutdowns' during periods of high bird activity, which is inefficient and incredibly costly. The full situational awareness provided by radar is essential to strike the right balance between keeping turbines as active as possible and minimising bird mortality. 

The automatic shutdown integration is highly customisable and can be configured for an individual wind farm operator's unique needs. For example, an operator can choose to trigger a shutdown only when a large flock is flying nearby.  

It can also be tailored to a precise level to trigger either a blanket shutdown, a group of turbines, or an individual turbine, depending on the situation and risk of a collision involved. The system can also activate turbine startup once the danger has passed to minimise downtime.  

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

Below you'll find a handy guide outlining what to expect when you opt to integrate our radars with an automatic shutdown system for your wind farm.

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How our radar technology can be integrated for automatic turbine shutdown

Our wind farm bird radar can be equipped with a plug-in called Wind Turbine Shutdown. This customisable plug-in is integrated with and provides an interface with the wind farm system to enable shutdown for individual turbines or groups of turbines. This recommendation is made from a ruleset that needs to be configured for the local circumstances, environments and regulations. 

Configuration of the rulesets

The Robin Configurator allows users to add turbine alarm areas and define rulesets to enable or disable one or more turbines.

Rulesets can be specified at various levels to help monitor local activity: The entire wind farm level (all turbines), the cluster level (groups of turbines) or even at the individual level (single wind turbine).

Multiple rulesets with different methods can be created and run in tandem, but generally, three strategies are available:

  • Alarm areas: this is the most basic option. The algorithm counts the configurable number of bird tracks in a predefined area and gives an alarm when the set threshold is exceeded. 

  • Mass migration: this algorithm is based on the density grid of the radar. The threshold for this is configurable and varies a lot depending on the wind farm location and the season.

  • Decision tree: the most flexible algorithm that allows customising the shutdown settings to a highly detailed level, with additional filtering options.

After configuring all rulesets, they can be activated and deactivated easily using the Robin Configurator.

Results

After tuning the rulesets, the system will provide alarms based on birds entering alarm areas or triggering migration events. The algorithms smartly regulate alarms, and with optimal configuration, can assist to reduce turbine downtime as much as possible. 

Depending on the density of birds present at the site, the alarm could be triggered frequently, resulting in a significant downtime recommended for the wind turbines. Therefore, proper evaluation to determine optimal settings before "going live" with the system is required.

Evaluation Period 

After installing the MAX® radar and training is provided, operators can evaluate the local bird population themselves and set the rules for Wind Turbine Shutdown via the Robin Configurator.

The evaluation period process consists of three steps: 

  1. During the initial period after installation of the MAX® radar, an environmental consultant needs to visually collect local bird data and match that with the corresponding radar data. The Robin Mobile Viewer logs bird sightings and correlates them with the radar tracks. This data should be gathered within close proximity of the proposed wind farm and should focus on the key bird species of interest


    Robin Radar Systems can provide recommendations on what data to gather and how to carry out the observations effectively. Observations should be conducted over a longer period to factor in significant seasonal effects. In addition, data from GPS-tagged birds can be correlated with radar track data for ground truthing.

  2. After sufficient relevant qualitative and quantitative data is collected, Robin Radar can assist in interpreting this data to formulate recommendations. Based on this, multiple rulesets can be created as shutdown thresholds, factoring bird location, altitude or size (e.g. large, medium or small).

    The rulesets are then activated using the Robin Configurator, and the radar will begin to provide turbine shutdown recommendations. During the testing phase, the wind farm operator must ensure they configure their system so that the turbines ignore these directives.

  3. During the final stage of the evaluation period, the automatic shutdown system runs in "shadow" mode. Robin Radar Systems can assist in shutdown monitoring, and data from ground truthing is used to verify the validity of shutdowns. The rulesets can be tuned based on the learnings leading to a well-balanced shutdown: a low risk of bird mortality of the species of interest and high availability of the turbines 


After further adjustment of the rulesets (if required), the system is ready to go live. If the client wants Robin to assist during this period, Robin will assign a project team to support the wind farm's local unit. 

Progress will be monitored closely and discussed in a monthly or bi-monthly meeting, depending on the length of the evaluation period.

And that’s it! Everything to expect when you integrate our radars with an automatic shutdown system at your wind farm. For more information on mitigating bird mortality at your site, you can download our comprehensive white paper below, or talk to sales.

Reducing Bird Mortality at Wind Farms