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NREL Announces New Technology Development and Innovation Project Selections

January 11, 2018

NREL has selected two projects to receive U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)-funded Technology Development and Innovation subcontracts. These awards provide recipients access to NREL’s facilities and expertise at the National Wind Technology Center in support of projects involving the research and development of early-stage wind-wildlife impact minimization technologies.

To facilitate more efficient and cost-effective wind energy deployment across the United States, the Technology Development and Innovation (TD&I) program helps the wind industry identify wind-wildlife impact minimization technologies. Award selection criteria included technical merit, feasibility and impact, partnership commitment, and organizational solvency. The TD&I team selected the following projects:

  • Refining a Selectively Perceptible Wind Turbine System for Preventing Bat Fatalities, Fort Collins Science Center, United States Geological Survey (USGS). This project will explore whether illuminating turbines with dim ultraviolet (UV) light will prevent bats from approaching and being struck by moving blades. Bats may visually mistake turbines as tree silhouettes at night and closely approach in search of potential resources, such as food or roosts. Although the extremely dim UV light used in this experiment is invisible to humans and birds, prior experiments showed that bats can see it. Two utility-scale turbines at the National Wind Technology Center will be instrumented with custom UV lights to evaluate if this method can reduce bat activity near the turbines. Thermal video cameras will monitor bat, bird, and insect activity at the turbine tower and within the rotor sweep area to provide the data to assess the safety and effectiveness of this system.
  • Managing Bird and Bat Turbine Strikes Using Weather Radar, Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center, USGS. This project proposes a two-pronged study consisting of a localized field component and a national-level assessment to determine whether the Next Generation Weather Radar (NEXRAD) system can effectively detect wildlife at considerable distances. This radar system could provide wind power plant operators with additional information that could be used to manage wind turbines in ways that reduce impacts to wildlife. NEXRAD is a well-established, highly reliable radar network that already offers freely available data on the presence of flying animals. The research project will determine whether data from NEXRAD could be leveraged to improve curtailment protocols to protect birds and bats. A portable radar unit will be installed at the National Wind Technology Center that will serve two roles: 1) corroborate data from nearby NEXRAD stations, and 2) link with thermal video observations (from the project above) as an index of relative strength of bird and bat movements.

At the conclusion of each 18-month project, the research results will be published in a presentation and report. 

In further support of the TD&I program, NREL and DOE plan to host an open house in summer 2018 to provide an in-depth overview of NREL’s technology characterization and development resources, and inform attendees about potential partnership opportunities with NREL. The open house will focus on current needs and gaps in wind-environmental instrumentation development and opportunities to optimize technology components and develop more advanced technologies.