Bureau Waardenburg
Varkensmarkt 9
4101 CK Culemborg
the Netherlands
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Stilstandvoorziening windturbines Eemshaven

Shutdown on demand for wind turbines and birds

Together with Altenburg & Wymenga and the University of Amsterdam, and on behalf of the Province of Groningen and the Dutch government, we investigated ways of limiting the numbers of collisions of migratory birds with wind turbines in Eemshaven.



Wind energy in Eemshaven

Eemshaven is located on an important migratory route for birds wintering in Africa and Southwest Europe and breeding in Scandinavia and Russia. The location of Eemshaven at the extreme northeastern tip of the mainland of the Netherlands, on the Wadden Sea, means that under certain circumstances in spring and autumn very large numbers of birds migrate over the area.

Eemshaven houses approximately 90 wind turbines and there are plans to increase this number by another 60. The numbers of bird collisions at wind turbines in Eemshaven are known to be relatively high compared to elsewhere in the Netherlands, this is due to:

  1. the location on the northern tip of the Netherlands, an area passaged by large numbers of migratory birds.
  2. the proximity to the Wadden Sea and its large numbers of waterbirds. 

In total, several thousand birds are thought to collide with the turbines each year. Almost half of these are migratory passerines.

Shutdown on demand for birds

In relation to the planned expansion of the wind farms in Eemshaven, the province of Groningen, responsible for granting permits and exemptions for the wind farms under the Nature Protection Act, wants to limit the number of collision victims among migratory birds. One way to achieve this is by stopping the wind turbines at times when large numbers of birds pass through over the area. To limit the costs of such a measure, the occurrence of peaks in the numbers of migratory birds must be predicted in advance (preferably at least two days in advance).

To this end the province of Groningen, together with Rijkswaterstaat (RWS) and the Ministries of Economic Affairs and Climate (EZK) and Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (LNV), commissioned a research consortium for further research into the interaction between wind turbines and migratory birds. The ultimate goal being to develop a model with which potentially high numbers of victims among migratory birds can be predicted at least 48 hours in advance. On the basis of such predictions, wind turbines can be stopped to limit the number of victims.

The research consortium consists of three parties: the University of Amsterdam (UvA), Bureau Waardenburg and Altenburg & Wymenga (A&W). The UvA has visualised the characteristics of the nocturnal migration of songbirds on a larger scale with the help of a weather radar on the German island of Borkum. In the autumn of 2018 and the spring of 2019, Bureau Waardenburg mapped the characteristics of the nocturnal migration of songbirds over the Eemshaven for approximately 2 months per season using an innovative 3D bird radar. Finally, during the autumn of 2018 and the spring of 2019, A&W carried out intensive victim searches in the existing wind farm in Eemshaven in order to map the mortality of migrant songbirds. In addition, a trial to stop wind turbines on nights with high levels of bird migration was carried out, to determine whether this shutdown would lead to a reduction in the number of collision victims.

The most effective way to reduce collisions is through the use of a radar system that monitors the intensity of bird migration through the area. Shutting down turbines for 25 nights reduced the numbers of collisions by ca. 75%.

More about the results of the research is (expected at the end of 2019) is available on the website of the Province of Groningen.



Shutdown on demand for bats

Bats are also known to fall victim to turbines in Eemshaven. A special shutdown programme for bats could reduce mortality by an estimated 80-90%.

Optimising shutdown on demand for cost reductions

Innogy Windpower Netherlands, who own many of the turbines in Eemshaven, calculated the reduction in energy due to the various shutdown programmes. This showed that a shutdown programme for birds cost more than for bats.

This is so far the only instance of using shutdown on demand for birds in the Netherlands. The information from this project can deliver information on the success and optimisation of shutdown on demand programmes to reduce numbers of birds and limit the reduction in energy.

Shutdown on demand and large birds

Bureau Waardenburg has also carried out a review and produced guidance for the use of shutdown on demand. The report entitled  was produced on behalf of BirdLife International (click on link to download).