Posted by: WCFN | July 26, 2014

Mitigation by video cameras


LOGO WCFN  8
World Council for Nature

and

STEI



Cameras and radars won’t save the eagles


DTBird only 7% effective when it works, says Norwegian study


PRESS RELEASE
August 4th 2014



Avian radar and video systems are targeting the wind farm market, claiming they are the solution to the turbines’ lethal impact on birds and bats. Save the Eagles International (STEI) and the World Council for Nature (WCFN) wish to alert to the fact that these perceived “solutions” are in fact counterproductive. They will, on the contrary, expand the mortality to important bird habitats and other sensitive areas previously spared by windfarm developers.


The DTBird video system, to name one, consists of a sound-warning device linked to four daylight video-cameras installed on the tower of each wind turbine, covering in principle all angles up to 150 meters away, and 50% to 300 meters (1). This system works only during daylight hours, so it is of no use for saving bats, migrating songbirds (which travel by night to avoid over-heating), and other useful creatures like owls.


Yet, wind turbines kill owls by the thousand – e.g. about 270 a year at the Altamont Pass wind farm in California (2). Regarding song birds, these are butchered by the million by the fast moving blade tips (3). As for bats, which are attracted to insects that swarm around wind turbines, the massacre is even greater (4). All this killing, by the way, will have serious consequences for agriculture, because bats and owls help control insects and rodents, respectively.


Thus, DTBird is useless for stopping 75-85% of the mortality caused by wind turbines. And as we shall see from a study made at Smola, Norway, it is only effective for scaring away 7% of the birds that approach wind turbines during the day.


Let’s do the maths: 7% of 15-25% = 1 – 1.75%. This means that DTBird, during the periods when all its cameras and related equipment are working perfectly, can reduce total mortality at wind farms by 1.75% at best.


DTbird includes a software said to be able to recognize birds from insects, falling leaves and other unwanted visual effects. It is also said to automatically trigger a dissuading sound when signals identified as birds are getting too close to the turbine. But if we read the evaluation made by NINA (Norwegian Institute for Nature Research), which tested the system during 6 months for two wind turbines on the island of Smola, it so happens that the warning mechanism is sometimes triggered by raindrops, insects and shifting clouds (5). NINA warns that these “false positives” could cause habituation, reducing the effectiveness of the dissuasion (6).


In any event, habituation or not, the performance of the DTBird video-system is dismal: “In only 7% of all video sequences where warning/dissuasion was iniciated, was a visible flight response observed” (7). In other words, when it works, DTBird is INEFFECTIVE at scaring away 93% of the birds that approach its wind turbine in the daytime.


If this weren’t enough, breakdowns are frequent. During the 6-month trial at the hands of NINA technicians, in spring and summer, the 8 DTBird cameras malfunctioned 3 times, and the detection module for one of the two turbines was out of order for a month (5). One can imagine how difficult it would be to maintain in excellent working order, say 10 modules and 40 video-cameras installed on 10 wind turbines, during 25 years (including winters).


Thus, even if the system were effective at 100% instead of 7% (or 1.75%), an army of state inspectors would be needed. They would have to check daily on the wind farm assigned to them, to ensure that each turbine effectively emits dissuading sounds when birds come close, and that the creatures actually react by avoiding the turbine. For we must remember that, in most countries, certain birds are so rare that the death of a single individual could have a significant impact on the conservation status of its population – e.g. the Bonelli’s Eagle in France .


This gives an idea of how enormous the task would be, to ensure that the cameras and detection modules may be relied upon every day of the year. So much so that it would be unrealistic to consider mitigation by electronic devices, whichever the system or its maker.


Avian radars, which are supposed to detect birds and stop wind turbines in time to avoid collisions, are an equally unrealistic “solution”. Actually, once the wind turbines are installed, and as governments can’t afford an army of uncorruptible “windspectors”, the radar unit is quite simply left unused. At the Kennedy Ranch wind farm in Texas, it was found that the avian radar had not stopped a single wind turbine in 18 months of operation. Actually, a witness watched in horror as a pelican got whacked out of the sky (8).


It’s a fact that has to do with human nature: windfarm owners won’t cut into their profits willingly. Indeed, stopping wind turbines abruptly several times a day wears the brakes and lowers production. It is also costly to maintain in excellent working order, 365 days a year, dozens of cameras – half of them facing the sky (and the rain) – and associated sensitive electronic equipment.


In a nutshell, video and radar systems may look good on paper, but they are impractical. In fact, their only use is to help developers obtain planning approvals for wind turbines in protected bird flyways and other sensitive habitats. They are thus counterproductive, helping destroy our most valued wildlife. Logically, they should be banned altogether from windfarm projects, as officials often base their favourable decisions on mere plans to install such mitigation systems, whether or not these will prove effective in the end.



Mark Duchamp
Chairman, World Council for Nature
www.wcfn.org
President, Save the Eagles International
www.savetheeaglesinternational.org


References:

(1) – Page 25 of NINA’s evaluation report


(2) – Wind turbines kill an average of 270 burrowing owls per year at the Altamont Pass windfarm in California: 270 burrowing owls


(3) – WIND TURBINES IN SPAIN KILL 6 TO 18 MILLION BIRDS & BATS A YEAR


(4) – How much wildlife can USA afford to kill/


(5) – Page 14 of NINA’s evaluation report


(6) – Page 3 of NINA’s evaluation report


(7) – Page 18 of NINA’s evaluation report


(8) – The truth about avian radars


Responses

  1. “DTBird 100 % effective to avoid White Tailed Eagle collisions, says Norwegian research”

    Dear Mr Mark Duchamp,

    I am Agustín Rioperez, biologist and partner of the company that has developed DTBird.

    First of all, I would like to clarify that DTBird system has not been developed to support wind turbine installations in bird, bats or other environmental sensible areas, nor in high concentration migratory flyways. The environmental approval of wind farms has to come from the specific environmental impacts assessment of every individual project, and DTBird system should be used only as a monitoring and mitigation measure to consider in the environmental impact assessment for the sites where wind energy developments are a reasonable option.

    From the other side, it is good to remind, that DTBird system can help to monitor and to reduce bird mortality in several hundreds of thousands of wind turbines currently installed and operating worldwide. Therefore, a subjective, biased or not well founded opposition to systems as DTBird, can prevent or retard the implementation of effective actions to reduce bird collisions in many wind turbines that already register bird collisions of great concern.

    DTBird is a readily available technology, to use in operating wind farms with risk or real impacts on birds, that takes actions to reduce bird mortality, and provides accurate, independent, objective and transparent information. DTBird Online Data Analysis Platform provides video records of every bird flight detected in the vicinity of the wind turbine, where it is possible to check the efficiency of real time actions taken to avoid the collision, and to verify any potential collision. This is Transparent Wind Power.

    I would like to clarify that DTBird has several Modules available, not just a Dissuasion Module, and different features and proposals depending on: target species (Eagles and Vultures, Condor, …), habitats (Flyways) or phases of the wind farm project (Meteorological Towers previous to wind farm installation).

    DTBird features and proposals can be found in the download section of DTBird Website (www.dtbird.com). To give an example, DTBird features for Eagles and Vultures protection include: real time detection; recording of collision risk flights and potential collisions; automatic activation of warning and dissuasion signals; automatic wind turbine shutdown; online access to video records of every bird flight detected, with recordings of sound, environmental variables and wind turbine operation parameters. All these features together. This is Bird Smart Wind Power.

    If you want to go deeper into data of automatic shutdown on demand, you can download the data of 5 European Wind Farms in DTBird website.

    I am going to make some clarifications to your remarks about DTBird operation at Smola Wind Farm.

    Dissuasion Module operation at Smola Wind Farm:

    NINA report is called “Evaluation of the DTBird video-system at the Smola wind-power plant. Detection capabilities for capturing near-turbine avian behavior”. Dated December 2012.

    The study was published almost 2 years ago, we will talk later about DTBird current features. In accordance with the title, it was not the objective of the research the evaluation of DTBird Dissuasion Module, nor the evaluation of DTBird Stop Control Module.

    According to page 17. “The Dissuasion module was activated June 1 – September 2012”. Therefore Dissuasion Modules was operating in 2 wind turbines, during 4 months.

    In any case, along the 4 months of operation, there were 0 collisions and 0 eagles rotor swept area crosses in the wind turbines with DTBird Dissuasion Module in operation (data available in DTBird online Data Analysis Platform, but not included in the report). If we had not been responsible using these data, we could have also make another great title “DTBird 100 % effective to avoid White Tailed Eagle collisions, says Norwegian research”.

    Visible bird reactions, all of them avoiding the cross of the rotor swept area (data available in DTBird online Data Analysis Platform), means that clearly DTBird realtime Warning and Dissuasion Module works. But the use of the % visible bird reactions to DTBird sounds to quantify the efficiency of the DTBird Dissuasion module, it is an evident mistake, because you are including
    all bird flights where no bird reaction is expected, such us:
    – Flights of large birds detected 2 to 3 footballs camps away form the wind turbine (200 to 300 m).
    – Flights close to the ground, below the rotor swept area (DTBird warning/dissuasion signals are focused to rotor swept area).
    – Flights with warning/dissuasion signals when the wind turbine is stopped, and the bird is clearly out of collision risk due to the distance.

    It is very important to note, that the bird reaction is not clearly visible in some video recordings, due to the perspective, distance to the sensors, or short flight length. And even more important, many birds can react to a warning signal just keeping distance to the wind turbine, a “reaction” that is not visible in the video recordings.

    If the same methodology/data analysis had been used to test the efficiency to prevent pedestrian collisions by the warning sound emitted by industrial vehicles when they use the rear speed, we had concluded that it is not useful: very low % of visible pedestrian reactions. But this is a wrong conclusion: the sound warns undoubtedly of the risk to pedestrians walking behind the industrial vehicle, and avoids collisions; it is not necessary to demonstrate this with a high % of pedestrians running away, moreover when you are including potential reactions in pedestrians walking 200 to 300 meters away or with the industrial vehicle stopped.

    The results of NINA research are clear: DTBird detectability for all bird species 86-96% in a radius of 150 m and 76-92% in a radius of 300 m (detailed values, p. 23), 0 collisions reported, 0 eagle rotor swept are crosses (data available in DTBird online platform), and the indicative value of % visual reactions observed to DTBird warning and dissuasion sounds (no valid value for quantitative evaluation, due to the methodology of the research/data analysis).

    DTBird Detection Module operation at Smola Wind Farm:

    Regarding DTBird Detection Module operation, you should consider that NINA evaluation of DTBird detectability, was a pilot project, performed more than 2 years ago, in the first DTBird installation under near-shore conditions, with autumn storms, and wind speeds over 140 km/hour.

    After the evaluation period of NINA report, from 2013 to date, DTBird Detection Modules have operated continuously (except when the wind turbines had no power, not operating). So for nearly 2 years, only 1 sensor of 8 (4 per DTBird system) has been out of service, and only 4 days and 4 hours (data available in DTBird online Data Analysis Platform. Snapshots). During these 4 days and 4 hours the other 3 sensors of the DTBird unit continued in normal operation and covering all rotor swept area.

    In this same period, form 2013 to date, the number of FP (mistakes in realtime detection) per day that would have triggered a Warning/Dissuasion signal for each DTBird unit are: 0,7 and 0,5 (data available in DTBird online Data Analysis Platform).

    Current DTBird operation and features for different objectives:

    – DTBird Detection Module current standard sensors configuration, is composed of 4 sensors, covering the whole rotor swept area, with an overlap of detection areas between sensors of 50%. Therefore, in case that 1 sensor fails for a few days, the other 3 sensors will continue covering all rotor swept area.

    – Video, sound and photo recordings: DTBird stores video of every bird flight detected, sounds (including the Warning and Dissuasion signals), and images taken by the cameras (1 per hour). DTBird snapshots also provides realtime access to images taken in last 10 minutes.

    – DTBird Mitigation proposal: in addition to data transparency with online access, DTBird Mitigation proposals include, in all cases: emission of Warning/Dissuasion signals + automatic Shutdown + register high collision risk flights and eventual collisions.

    DTBird availability for a personal presentation in Broomfield, CO. December 2-5, 2014
    DTBird sponsors Wind Wildlife Research Meeting X. Broomfield, CO. December 2-5, 2014. I will be there in DTBird booth with some colleagues. It will be my pleasure to meet you, introduce you into DTBird, and answer personally all your queries.

    Best regards,

    Agustín Riopérez
    DTBird System
    Business Development Manager
    C/ Mauricio Legendre, 16. 28046 Madrid (Spain)
    T: 00 34 91 344 90 86
    arioperez@dtbird.comhttp://www.dtbird.com

  2. Dear Mr Agustín Riopérez,

    I can understand your interest in defending your product, but mine is to defend the birds.
    There is no way your system will save the eagle or other bird populations from declining from wind turbine strikes.
    The NINA study proves it, and I have shown why.

    Your rebuttal, I am afraid, fails to convince – particularly when you boast that no eagles got close to the two turbines equipped by your system. I remind you that, even if this result could be trusted, there are about 40 wind turbines at Smola, and that it is easy to chose the two that have little or no chance of being flown-by by the eagles.

    Best

    Mark Duchamp

  3. Dear Mr Mark Duchamp,

    I invite you to see the following video. View in HD with sound.

    Let everyone take their own conclusions.

    Best regards,

    Agustín Riopérez
    DTBird System
    Business Development Manager
    C/ Mauricio Legendre, 16. 28046 Madrid (Spain)
    T: 00 34 91 344 90 86
    arioperez@dtbird.comhttp://www.dtbird.com

    • Pro-windfarm ornithologists of the Norwegian institute NINA used your devices during 6 months. They found that these broke down several times, that they can’t distinguish birds from falling leaves or moving clouds, and that approaching birds only change course 7% of the time when hearing their deterring noise.

  4. I do not work for DTbird, or any other identification and deterrence company. I I am a wildlife researcher and conservationist working in California, and elsewhere in the US, deeply involved with wind energy and wind energy impacts to wildlife; in particular the impacts to eagles and condors.

    i think your article neglects to mention that all of these technologies are in their infancy and no technology is perfect right away. your article is damaging in that it may reduce support and incentive to develop novel technologies to reduce impacts from wind farms on wildlife.

    Writing-off the newly developed technology that are essentially currently only in a testing phase seems counterproductive to good scientific methodology and evidence based conservation efforts; see current US D.O.E. grants for fully assessing these technologies in a robust manner (https://energy.gov/eere/articles/energy-department-announces-new-projects-help-protect-wildlife-wind-energy-plants). It seems preemptive to conclude that no technology will work based on one technical report.

    it also seems “dangerous” to base your viewpoint on this one paper; should all decisions be based on one paper with a very limited sample size? seems like that is what climate deniers do; they find one paper that suggests humans have not contributed to climate change and that is how they defend their stance.

    You should seriously consider writing a follow up article that details the new, in-depth, and robust, often experimental, studies currently under-way aimed to test the efficacy of these technologies and tell your readers that we (in the conservation community) are hopeful, but with reasonable doubt, about the ability of these technologies to help offset impacts.

    Additionally, your current article leaves the impression that the technologies will not improve and increase in efficacy, however, for example, DTbird has improved their cameras and identification algorithms since the May et al. (2012) study in Norway.

    thanks and hopefully we (conservationists, technology developers, and clear-air advocates) can work together to better place wind farms and mitigate, to the best of our abilities, the impact to wildlife.

    • For over 30 years, wind energy interests have been pushing ahead the dangerous, expensive and ultimately useless wind turbine technology saying: we’re working on solutions. Well, enough now of putting the cart before the horse: first, make the technology safe for people, birds and bats, then we’ll talk. In the meantime: moratorium.
      You have violated long enough the precautionary principle, among other things.

  5. Wow, you seem personally angry when you say “you have violated..” i would like to know what other things i have violated in your opinion (even though you know nothing about me). And again, i say that you fail to point out continuing and ongoing improvements to technologies, better placement (at least in the US) and the focused efforts and financial support of the United States Government (at least the previous administration [i don’t have any defense for the current Trump administration’s disregard for wildlife]) to reduce impacts to wildlife.

    what is your suggestion; continue to develop oil, gas, coal, and nuclear energy? i am sure you have some brilliant ideas as to how to reduce pollution, reduce greenhouse gasses and produce the energy needed by society to function; don’t keep them to yourself, please do share them so the world can benefit.

    what about impacts from other energy development practices, both direct (loss of habitat) and indirect (effects of climate change) on birds. Here in California (with some of the most dense eagle populations in the world) we are already seeing the negative effects of climate change on eagle habitat (e.g., dying off of nesting substrates [trees] required by eagles for reproduction and species survival).

    i guess you prefer eagles disappear from the landscape as a result of climate change (which will also negatively impact most of the planet’s wildlife species, not only birds and bats that are at high risk to wind turbine strikes) and you prefer we should completely abandon solutions that are not perfect from the moment of conception.

    You [maybe purposefully] erroneously state that for “For over 30 years, wind energy interests pushing ahead the dangerous, expensive and ultimately useless wind turbine technology….” however, that is terribly misleading. Detection and deterrence technology have not been around for 30 years, at least not at the level of sophistication that the newly developed artificial intelligence and image recognition software have recently achieved (and they are only getting better).

    Seems like YOU are violating the precautionary principle when it comes to climate change. Focusing only on wildlife that are at risk to turbine strikes to the detriment of most other plants and animals (including the animals you claim to be fighting to protect) doesn’t seem like a sound, long-term conservation strategy that will benefit the most of the Earth’s plants and animals.

    And furthermore, how much do you think people will care about conserving wildlife if they are preoccupied with struggling with the effects of climate change (e.g., drought, storms, etc etc)?

    thank you for your (albeit angry) response.


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