A new study by the Norwegian Institute of Nature Research (NINA) found that painting just one of three wind turbine blades black can avoid up to 72% of bird fatalities.
Another finding NINA had was that using ultraviolet lighting deters birds from the lit area. This helps to reduce the ecological impact during the building process of such turbines.
“As wind energy deployment increases and larger wind‐power plants are considered, bird fatalities through collision with moving turbine rotor blades are expected to increase. However, few effective deterrent or mitigation measures have so far been developed to reduce the risk of collision,” the authors state in their research.
“We tested the hypothesis that painting would increase the visibility of the blades, which reduced bird fatalities by over 70% relative to the neighboring control (i.e., unpainted) turbines.”
It is to be noted that bird fatalities are not only bad ecological but also economical. Birds can damage those turbines by hitting them hard in mid-flight. Painting these blades black could thus save money in the short term. More visible blades suffer less from bird impacts and thus are less likely to need (expensive) repairs done to them. Moreover, when repairs are being done on turbines they are switched off. They no longer produce electricity for the time of their repair.
It does seem that more rigorous and long-term research needs to be done to come to a definite conclusion. The team states:
“The in situ experiment was performed comparing only four treated turbines to the neighboring four untreated turbines. We must therefore be careful what we deduce from the experiment given the limited number of turbine pairs,”
“However, the experiment ran over a long timeframe, encompassing seven and a half years pretreatment and three and a half years post‐treatment”