How to Remove Bird Carcasses From Wind Turbines

How to Remove Bird Carcasses From Wind Turbines

Wind power is increasingly being used as a renewable energy source. However, wind turbines can negatively impact local bird populations through collisions. Removing bird carcasses from wind turbines is an important maintenance task. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to properly remove bird carcasses from wind turbines.

Understanding Why Birds Collide with Turbines

Before learning how to remove bird carcasses, it’s important to understand why birds collide with wind turbines in the first place. There are a few key reasons:

Vision and Perception

Birds have different visual systems than humans. Their vision is specialized for tasks like hunting, not perceiving fast moving turbine blades. Birds simply may not see the blades soon enough to avoid them.

Migration and Habitat

Many birds migrate or have habitual flight paths that intersect with wind farms. The turbines present new collision risks for familiar routes.

Blade Speed and Motion

Modern wind turbine blades move extremely fast – up to 180 mph at the tips. This speed makes the blades nearly invisible to birds in flight.

Weather Conditions

Poor weather like fog or low cloud cover obscures turbines from a bird’s vision. Birds are more likely to collide with turbines they cannot see and avoid.

Preventing Bird Collisions

Before bird carcasses accumulate, it’s ideal to prevent collisions in the first place through proper wind farm planning and operation. Some ways to reduce collisions include:

Site Selection

Choosing sites away from major bird habitats and migration routes avoids intersecting frequently used flight paths.

Lighting Modifications

Minimal turbine lighting at night reduces attraction and confusion. Some systems activate lights only when aircraft approach.

Operational Adjustments

Adjusting blade speed and pitch reduces motion smear and makes blades slightly more visible to birds.

Acoustic Deterrents

Broadcasting predator calls or other alarming sounds discourages birds from approaching.

Regular Turbine Inspections

Even with precautions, some bird collisions will inevitably occur at wind sites. Regular turbine inspections are key for timely carcass removal before scavengers scatter remains.

Frequency

Turbines should be inspected at least once per week during peak migration seasons for maximum carcass detection. More frequent checks may be warranted at sites with heavy collisions.

Visual Scanning

Inspectors should slowly circle turbines, meticulously visually scanning the ground and low vegetation around the entire base. Carcasses can land 20-120 meters away.

Detection Dogs

Specially trained dogs can find carcasses faster and more reliably than humans alone. Their keen sense of smell locates even well-hidden carcasses in brush.

Safe Carcass Removal Methods

Once found, carcasses must be removed safely and properly. Here are best practices:

Proper Training

Carcass collectors should be trained on turbine safety, PPE, biohazards, and wildlife regulations before removal work.

Turbine Lock-out

Turbines should be fully locked out and stopped before anyone approaches to collect a carcass. This prevents any motion hazards.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Cut-resistant gloves, safety glasses, steel-toe boots, and fall protection should be worn when collecting carcasses near turbines.

Containers and Tools

Carcasses should be placed in tough sealed containers. Grabber tools allow collection from a distance.

Documentation

Details like date, time, turbine number, species, etc should be carefully recorded for each carcass.

Proper Carcass Handling and Disposal

Collected carcasses require proper handling and disposal to prevent the spread of bacteria like Salmonella.

Cold Storage

Carcasses should be refrigerated or put on ice immediately to slow decomposition. Do not allow carcasses to accumulate and rot.

Tagged and Bagged

Each carcass should be double-bagged and tagged with collection details like date and location.

Approved Disposal

Research or donate carcasses whenever possible. If necessary, dispose of them through approved channels like incineration. Never litter or dump carcasses.

Reporting and Mitigation

The wind operator has a duty to report collisions to wildlife agencies and take further steps to reduce future risk.

Agency Notifications

Operators must promptly notify the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and coordinate mitigation responses.

Revised Operations

If collisions are excessive, the operator may be required to make turbine operational changes to further minimize collisions.

Habitat Mitigation

For heavy impacts, operators may have to protect alternate habitats through conservancies or other mitigation projects.

Conclusion

Regularly removing bird carcasses from wind turbines is an unfortunate but necessary maintenance task. Workers should utilize proper safety precautions, handling, and disposal methods to minimize health risks and ecological impacts. Thoughtful turbine siting, deterrents, and monitoring can help reduce collisions as renewable wind power continues to expand.