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New research from Oregon State University will aim to make eagles less likely to collide with wind-turbine blades. The U.S. Department of Energy Wind Technology Office has awarded Roberto Albertani of the OSU College of Engineering a 27-month, US$ 625,000 grant to develop technology for detecting and deterring approaching eagles and for determining if a blade strike has occurred.

Albertani’s team, which includes OSU computer scientist Sinisa Todorovic and electrical and computer engineer Matthew Johnston, will work on a three-part system for protecting the eagles. The system will feature a tower-mounted, computer-connected camera able to determine if an approaching bird is an eagle and whether it’s flying toward the blades. If both those answers are yes, the computer triggers a ground-level deterrent: randomly moving, brightly coloured facsimiles of people, designed to play into eagles’ apparent aversion to humans. At the root of each turbine blade will be a vibration sensor able to detect the kind of thump produced by a bird hitting a blade. Whenever such a thump is detected, recorded video data from a blade-mounted micro-camera can be examined to tell if the impact was caused by an eagle or something else. Primary field testing will take place at the North American Wind Research and Training Center in Tucumcari, N.M., and the NREL National Wind Technology Center in Boulder, Colo. Field work will also be done in Oregon and California.

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