Problems With Renewables
The problems with renewable energy are, by now, common knowledge for most. From intermittency to storage limitations, high upfront costs and geographic restrictions, each of these issues is being slowly but surely addressed by the industry.
More recently, however, a lesser-known and counter-intuitive issue for renewable energy has become a focal point for critics of clean energy. The environmental impact of renewable energy projects, notably hydropower dams, solar plants, and wind farms, are undermining what many consider to be the primary benefit of renewable energy.
In short, these problems are as follows. Hydropower, the largest single source of renewable energy in the world, is threatening freshwater ecosystems across the globe and has contributed to the destruction of roughly 70 percent of the world’s wetlands. Solar energy, when produced at massive solar plants, is responsible for the destruction of desert ecosystems, the incineration of birds, and the dislocation of some rare animals from their natural habitat. Finally, wind power, as President Donald Trump recently pointed out, is responsible for the death of between 140,000 and 500,000 birds every year in the U.S. alone. As wind turbine installation increases, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service predicts that number could climb to 1.4 million bird deaths per year. Related: Oil Major Equinor Stops Drilling In U.S. Shale Patch
As with all the problems that renewable energy faces, the industry is working tirelessly to innovate itself beyond these setbacks, and a recent report from Norway may well have solved one of the key issues facing wind energy.
Solving The Bird Death Dilemma
With the prospect of 1.4 million dead birds looming over the wind industry, a wind farm on the Norwegian archipelago of Smøla has come up with a solution that is as smart as it is simple. It painted a single blade of each wind turbine in its test group from white to black and saw the bird deaths associated with those wind turbines drop by 70 percent.
The idea behind painting one of the three blades of each windmill black came from a hypothesis that one of the main causes of bird deaths at wind turbines is that birds struggle to identify the blades. In painting one blade black, the birds may now be able to both identify and avoid the wind farms that President Donald Trump described as ‘bird graveyards’.
While the evidence from the Norwegian wind farm test looks promising, plenty more tests will need to be done in order to establish a statistically significant result. Both the test group and control group consisted of only four wind turbines, and there was seasonal variation for the results, with the number of deaths increasing at the painted turbines over summer months.
As the renewable revolution continues to march forward, innovations like this will be vital to ensure the adoption of clean energy as a major part of the global energy mix.
By Josh Owens of Oilprice.com
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