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Vattenfall to put cameras on wind turbine to count dead birds

Energy firm Vattenfall is going to place infrared cameras on one of its wind turbines in the North Sea to gauge how many birds are killed by the blades.

At the moment the decision to stop or slow turbines lies with the economic affairs ministry. It uses models which predict deaths at busy times of year, such as spring and autumn when millions of birds cross the North Sea on their migratory routes.

In 2023, North Sea turbines were halted three times to protect birds and some 50,000 are killed each year, experts have estimated.

The predictions do not give an accurate picture, Vattenfall said, because the dead birds fall into the sea and disappear in the current.

Some 16 infrared cameras will be placed on the turbine, which is part of an offshore wind farm some 18 kilometres from the coast near The Hague.

“The point is to test these promising camera and AI techniques to reduce the tally of dead birds. We want to find out exactly how many birds are being killed and under which circumstances,” Vattenfall spokesman Jesper Kyed Larsen told broadcaster NOS.

“In the long term this will result in more realistic predictions for future wind farms and help determine the right moments to stop the turbines,” he said.

The trial will start in August and will last a year. Vattenfall is carrying out the test with Wageningen University.

On land

Last year the owners of a massive wind farm in Zeewolde said they are installing smart cameras on turbines to monitor the arrival of white-tailed eagles – so that the equipment can be turned off. 

Last season, the 23 breeding pairs of white-tailed eagles in the Netherlands produced 45 young, and some nested in the nearby Oostvaardersplassen. The birds have a wing span of up to 2.45 metres

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