In a groundbreaking move, the Dutch government halted operations at the Borssele and Egmond aan Zee offshore wind farms for four hours on 13 May to ensure the safe passage of migratory birds. This unprecedented measure, considered an international first, aligns with the government's and participating companies' commitment to prioritize ecological conservation and biodiversity within offshore wind farms. By limiting the turbine rotation speed to a maximum of two rotations per minute during the anticipated nighttime peak migration, the birds are afforded a secure pathway.
This shutdown represents a pilot phase, with the possibility of becoming a standard practice starting this autumn. It will encompass both existing wind farms and those currently under construction or planned for the future. By adopting such an environmentally conscious approach, the Dutch government aims to minimize the impact of wind farms on natural ecosystems, thereby mitigating potential threats to avian species during their biannual migratory journeys.
It is the first time anywhere in the world that wind turbines have been halted to allow birds safe passage, Dutch Minister for Climate and Energy Policy Rob Jetten said. “We want to keep the impact of wind farms on nature as small as possible and this is one measure to do this,” he said.
As the renewable energy sector expands, concerns arise regarding the potential mortality risks faced by birds and bats due to direct contact with rotor blades and the pressure effects of vortices, alongside the associated risks of displacement from their natural habitats. Experts estimate that the turbine blades kill some 50,000 birds every year as offshore wind farms proliferate on their migratory routes.
Leading offshore wind energy players are actively investing in technological advancements and conducting studies focused on bird protection. Vattenfall, for instance, recently released findings from a study that monitored seabird behavior near its Aberdeen Offshore Wind Farm. Additionally, Ørsted and its partners have made investments in a "deep-tech" start-up called Spoor, which is leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) to monitor and track birdlife at offshore wind farms.