South Africa’s blustery ridges are great for wind energy generation, but these prime renewable regions are also home to the country’s Verreaux’s eagles, and protecting these eagles while generating clean power is becoming an increasingly pressing issue. To help reduce bird fatalities, Dr. Megan Murgatroyd from Hawkwatch International has developed a commercial tool that can inform developers about the most common flight paths of local species so they can build away from these highly trafficked areas.
To develop the tool, Dr. Murgatroyd fitted more than a dozen eagles with GPS devices to track where the birds nest and where they fly throughout the day. When compared with recorded deaths of eagles near turbines, she found that 79 percent of these fatalities could have been avoided with strategic turbine placement.
Species mapping is starting to save eagles in South Africa and although not every developer is using it, many have embraced it as a way to make their green technology truly environmentally friendly. Other strategies are also at play to protect birds around the world from turbines.
In Wyoming, a program called IdentiFlight uses camera-based monitoring systems to detect the presence of eagles and shut down nearby turbines. Others have found success in painting one of the blades of a turbine black so it’s more noticeable and one company in California is actually launching a breeding program to offset potential harm to the region’s rare California condors.