The threat posed by wind turbines to birds and bats has been a controversial topic in Germany since the country started using wind power. There is no denying the fact that wind turbines can be a hazard for birds and bats. The presence of protected species in areas subject to development has therefore increasingly been a serious obstacle to plans for new wind energy projects in recent years.
The problems arising in planning permission processes can often be remedied by preventive measures, as they are called, which are intended to ensure better protection of endangered species. The main measures put in place to date, as far as birds are concerned, have been designed to make the land in the direct vicinity of the turbines unattractive or to lure the creatures away from the turbines. In the case of bats, the most common approach is to use certain shutdown algorithms.
The above measures may often be effective at defusing conflicts but, in most cases, they cannot resolve them. The aims of the project "NatForWINSENT – Nature Conservation Research at the Wind Energy Test Site" are therefore to develop innovative preventive measures for birds and bats, primarily adopting a technology-based approach, and to test their effectiveness. This is scheduled to take place at the WINSENT wind energy test site which is being developed by the ZSW in Stötten near the towns of Geislingen and Donzdorf and is due to be put into operation in spring 2021.
We will be working on the project with scientists from respected institutions who have experience of research in the relevant fields and we will be conducting in-depth investigations into the behaviour of birds of prey and bats in the vicinity of wind turbines. These findings will be taken as the basis for the development of preventive measures. We will then scrutinise the effectiveness of these measures, duly exploiting the vast potential of the wind energy test site. The measures might include certain markings on the turbines, for example, or operational regulations. The research programme will also involve tests on the reliability of detection systems which are already available on the market.
The aim of the project is not to harness the power of wind at any site by taking the heat out of the sensitive issue of wildlife conservation. We are instead mindful of averting collision risks and want to start putting measures in place in borderline situations where they can help to push the threat below the critical threshold. The project is funded by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (Bundesministerium für Umwelt, Naturschutz und nukleare Sicherheit - BMU) and the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (Bundesamt für Naturschutz - BfN).