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New Wind Turbine Technology Prevents Eagle Fatalities

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Todd Katzner/U.S. Geological Survey
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Wind farms pose a threat to eagles. But a new system to identify the raptors and shut down the turbines may help.

Chris McClure is the Director of Global Conservation Science at the Peregrine Fund -- a non-profit conservation group. He and his team tested the effectiveness of Identi-Flight systems. That's the technology that takes images and identifies birds. If it sees one, it shuts down the wind turbine.

The Top of the World Wind Farm in Converse County is outfitted with the technology. McClure and his team compared the number of eagle fatalities there to a nearby wind farm without Identi-Flight. They found the deaths decreased by 82 percent where the technology was used.

"Because it's seeing so many more eagles than a person would, it's shutting down way more than a person would shut it down," he said. "So at some level fewer eagles are getting killed because the turbines aren't spinning."

But McClure said it's not a perfect solution.

"The number one thing you want to do is make sure you don't put turbines or the wind farm in a bad place," he said.

He said Identi-Flight can be adapted to identify other species of birds as well.

Have a question about this story? Please contact the reporter, Ashley Piccone, at apiccone@uwyo.edu.

Ashley is a PhD student in Astronomy and Physics at UW. She loves to communicate science and does so with WPM, on the Astrobites blog, and through outreach events. She was born in Colorado and got her BS in Engineering Physics at Colorado School of Mines. Ashley loves hiking and backpacking during Wyoming days and the clear starry skies at night!
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