Raptors and wind power
Worldwide, raptors are affected by the collision with wind turbines. Especially the Red Kite and the White-tailed Eagle are threatened by the collision with wind turbines due to their flight height, field of view and the habitat use.
The impact of the collision with wind turbines on the population is highly controversial. Due to the lack of data extrapolations and suppositions are often used for the estimation of the risk for the population. These extrapolations and results are used in variable forms to interpret different kinds of views.
This situation and the lack of data does not contribute to species protection and political decisions for the Red Kite, the White-tailed Eagle, the Imperial Eagle, the Black Kite and the Saker Falcon.
It is not only a question if wind parks should generally be built but also the question of finding solutions to reduce the risk of collision and to find compromises. For this, scientific studies are implemented and existing once are consulted. One study showed that the risk of collision is reduced if wind turbines are more clustered to a certain degree (Schaub 2012). Also, the reduction of attractive areas for the raptors in the wind parks and the switch off of the turbines during harvest season can reduce the risk of collision (Reichenbach 2017).
The goal is to create leading literature for fact-based decision-making concern the expansion of wind energy. In Germany, the legally enshrined killing ban is currently pursuing an approach based on individuals. A single nearby nest may therefore be sufficient to prevent a wind farm because the mortality risk for the nesting pair is higher than the natural risk. In the interest of wind power and the transition to renewable energy, such an approach may need to be reconsidered for a bird that is widespread in Germany. In October 2019, the German Federal Ministry of Economics adopted a list of tasks to create acceptance and legal certainty for onshore wind energy after the "Wind Summit". The definition of criteria for determining the significantly increased risk of killing takes an important place in this.
We believe a population-based approach would be more sensible, which would be not only interesting for individual countries but also on European scale. Even nature conservationists such as Lars Lachmann from the Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU) would be willing to grant an exception to the ban on killing in case of wind farm permits.
The focus should be the conservation of the species, based on a level determined by politics and nature conservationists. The goals should be implemented with the help of guidelines on a national and European level.
The aim of the LIFE EUROKITE + project is to use telemetry studies to generate representative data for a population-based approach, but also to plan another sub-project that should enable technical solutions for the protection of individual breeding pairs living near wind farms. Such individuals would be tracked by modern GPS transmitters with appropriate software in the vicinity of the relevant wind farm with high frequency (1 data recorded per second) in order to study the behavior in the wind farm in detail. Additionally, it should also be possible to turn off the wind turbines for a short time if a tagged bird flies nearby, which prevents a collision and therefore does not violate the killing ban.
The telemetry data can be used to answer several questions relevant to wind power using. The LIFE EUROKITE + project will deal with the behavior of the birds in the wind farm, the relevance of wind farms on migration routes, the roosts and the European population development.
Reichenbach, M. 2017. Wind turbines and birds in Germany-examples of current knowledge, new insight and remaining gaps.
Schaub, M. 2012. Spatial distribution of wind turbines is crucial for the survival of red kite populations. Biological Conservation 155: 111–118.