LOUSIVILLE, Colo. (CBS4) — Recent data published in the Journal of Applied Ecology credits a Louisville company’s raptor detection system with an 82 percent reduction of eagle fatalities during a study at a Wyoming wind farm.
The IdentiFlight system acts as “vision” network for wind turbines. When IdentiFlight identifies an avian species of recognized raptor dimensions approaching the wind turbines, it decides which turbines need to slow down and by how much.
IdentiFlight is a product of Boulder Imaging. The system, the company states, is a form of artificial intelligence that is still learning its craft – mitigating collisions, maximizing efficiency and minimizing impact to electrical generation.
The study was performed at Top of the World Windpower Facility in Converse County, Wyoming, east of Casper. It contains 110 turbines.
Ten eagles were killed in Top of the World’s first two years of operation, according to a 2013 story. That made it Duke Energy’s deadliest operation.
This, at a time when the Wildlife Society Bulletin proclaimed 83,000 hunting birds died each year due to wind turbine collisions, and the federal government considered monetary penalties for the deaths of raptors, some species of which were protected by law.
For a growing industry promising “green energy” and a smaller environmental footprint, the specter of carcasses collecting at the feet of wind turbines was a worrisome problem.
“These results show that using the IdentiFlight system can lessen numbers of fatalities of eagles at wind energy facilities,” noted Dr. Chris McClure, Director of Global Conservation Science at The Peregrine Fund and lead author of the recent study, “reducing the conflict between wind energy and raptor conservation.”
In 2016, CBS4 caught up with two eagles named Spirit and Nova as they made test flights among IdentiFlight-equipped turbines at the National Renewable Energy Lab south of Boulder.
Engineers told CBS4’s Chris Spears the device can bring a turbine to a halt in as little as 30 seconds.
“The goal is to do everything we can to understand how birds interact with the windfarms,” Jason Roadman, NREL test engineer, said at the time.
Boulder Imaging stated IdentiFlight is now being deployed across the U.S. and in other countries.
Carlos Jorquera, Chief Technology Officer for IdentiFlight, stated in a press release, “One of the advantages of the IdentiFlight system is its ability to learn from the massive amounts of data that it collects daily from eagles and other protected bird species around the world. By leveraging artificial intelligence technologies, such as machine-learning and convolutional neural networks, the system continuously improves as the data set grows.”