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Bird-Safe Wind Turbines

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Funding Year: 2017

Research Areas: Natural Capital

Regions: No Continent

Despite the potential contribution of wind energy to emissions reductions, wind turbines have significant ecological impacts through the killing of birds and bats that collide with spinning blades. 


Wind turbines made to visually blend with the sky to avoid being an eyesore for humans do not offer sufficient visual cues to inform birds of the oncoming collision path. Further, birds tend to fly in wind patterns that are compatible with those moving through turbines. Many wind energy parks also overlap with important bird corridors recognized by the Audubon society. Thus, expansion of wind energy parks around the globe will have a proportional increasing impact on birds and ecosystems.This project will address this sustainability roadblock by combining recent Stanford research on bird visual flight control and vertical-turbine technology.

Vertical axis wind turbines (VAWT) are thought to not only improve wind energy harvested per square meter but also reduce bird deaths by reducing the special impact of the turbines on bird habitats. They also have blades that are located closer together and travel at the same linear and angular velocities, making every blade section more similarly apparent for birds to see. By better understanding how and what birds in flight can see visually, this project can create specific turbine design rules for maximizing avian turbine visual awareness and collision avoidance.

Learn more about the Realizing Environmental Innovation Program and other funded projects.

Principal Investigators:

David Lentink, Professor of Mechanical Engineering

John Dabiri, Professor of Mechanical Engineering & Civil and Environmental Engineering

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