Painting a single turbine blade saves birds’ lives

The technique resulted in a 70% drop in bird deaths

Could reducing bird deaths at wind turbines be as simple as a paint job? Researchers in Norway found that changing the color of just one turbine blade from white to black resulted in a 70% drop in bird deaths. The effect was strongest among raptors.

The study, published in Ecology and Evolution, followed up on previous lab experiments. Those found that painting one of three rotor blades seemed to create a visual cue that interrupted the “motion smear,” which can make the whirling turbines hard for birds to detect.

The fix wasn’t as simple as it sounds. Since the turbines at the Smøla windfarm were already standing, the blades had to be painted while they were in place. “If implemented before construction, this cost will be minimized,” researchers concluded.

Read more in Ars Technica.

Header Image: Wind turbines stand at the Smøla windfarm in Norway. Credit: Emelysjosasen