Woolnorth Renewables, an Australian pioneer in wind energy, is employing cutting-edge artificial intelligence (AI) technology to address the critical issue of bird collisions at its Tasmanian wind farms. With a commitment to environmental conservation amid the global shift to renewable energy, the company will deploy 30 IdentiFlight units on its 168-megawatt wind farm, introducing a revolutionary approach to protect the region’s wedgetail eagles.
The larger and more expansive these turbines become, the higher the probability of avian fatalities. In the US alone, turbine collisions account for up to 679,000 bird deaths annually, emphasizing the urgency to address this environmental concern.
While wind turbine collisions contribute to a fraction of bird deaths compared to other factors like power transmission lines and house cats, the issue has gained prominence due to legal repercussions faced by wind farms. Recent cases, including a wind farm ordered for demolition in France and a hefty fine for a US wind farm, underscore the need for proactive solutions.
Woolnorth Renewables had previously implemented a human-observer-based system in 2019 to prevent bird collisions, but challenges persisted. In 2020, the company introduced bird radar technology on a trial basis. Now, turning to AI-powered IdentiFlight, Woolnorth aims to enhance its bird monitoring capabilities further.
IdentiFlight utilizes optical sensors and AI algorithms to identify eagles and protected birds within a 0.6-mile radius of the turbines. The system calculates bird trajectories relative to the turbine’s rotary sweep area in seconds, enabling prompt decisions to shut down specific turbines. This innovative approach represents a significant leap forward in minimizing bird fatalities.
The company’s trial assessment at another Tasmanian wind farm yielded promising results, with IdentiFlight showcasing a 99% detection accuracy and the potential to reduce bird fatalities by an impressive 85%. Giles Rinckes, Woolworths’ general manager, emphasizes the importance of such technologies in managing and mitigating risks associated with wind farms during the clean energy transition.
Woolnorth Renewables’ adoption of AI technology exemplifies a forward-looking approach to sustainability in the renewable energy sector. The deployment of IdentiFlight signals a commitment to balance clean energy initiatives with wildlife conservation, marking a significant step towards harmonizing environmental protection and energy production in the era of renewables.