Sunday, January 24, 2010

Bird Kills Turbine: Lives to Tell

Bird and bat kills are an issue that utility-scale wind farms deal with. Small residential-scale wind turbines do not pose a similar hazard. But recently I witnessed a situation where a small wind turbine in West Virginia became the victim of bird activity.

In an ironic twist, I went to see the wind turbine that was out-of-order owing to an infestation of starlings. I’m calling it a “turbine kill” and I think that I might encourage my friends at the USFWS to investigate the incident.

More often we hear about bird or bat kills occurring at utility-scale wind farms. Bird and bat kills are real problems associated with the location of wind farms along routes that are traditionally used for migration. These kills can number in the hundreds of animals. They’re bad news.

Small wind turbines don’t pose the same threat to birds and bats. I have yet to talk with a customer or a long-time wind turbine owner who can recollect a bird or bat fatality at their site. Small turbines are sited differently and are simply a different scale. More often they serve as perches for birds…………………………………..and evidently that can be trouble for a turbine.

I’d evicted a nest of birds from this same machine more than a year ago. They made it back in and set up house (probably while the wind turbine controller was in the shop this past November). Unfortunately for the birds, turbine owners, and myself the nest that was constructed was built on the main terminal block in the head of the turbine. Once the upgraded controller was placed in service and the machine began to again operated things in the new nest got hot. Things got hot enough to smolder and melt the terminal block and short circuit the wind turbine.

What a mess!

Here are a couple of nest shots

And here's the melted terminal strip

The machine is up and running again. I captured a short video while I was down at the farm.