Wildlife Technology Research and Development
Technology Development and Innovation to Address Wind Wildlife Operational Challenges (TD&I) at the National Wind Technology Center (NWTC) supports efforts to reduce bird and bat fatalities at wind energy projects and provide regulatory agencies and developers with a higher level of confidence in mitigation measures.
Identifying the best wind-wildlife mitigation technologies for each wind project enables the deployment of more efficient and cost-effective wind energy projects across the United States. Through TD&I, the NWTC collaborates with technology developers to support the development, validation, and engineering of emerging technologies that detect and deter birds and bats at wind farms.
The NWTC's unique location at the mouth of Eldorado Canyon, just south of Boulder, Colorado, allows staff to validating turbines in conditions that might only be experienced once per decade in other locations—and its suite of research turbines, electronics and instrumentation laboratories, meteorological towers, and calibration and measurement instruments create an unparalleled location for wind-wildlife research and validation.
Capabilities and Infrastructure
The NWTC offers specialized infrastructure for wildlife technology research. With more than 20 network-connected cameras, real-time weather display, and site-wide network connectivity, the NWTC supports a wide range of wind-wildlife research and development endeavors.
NWTC experiences extreme weather events. Winter's variable and diverse winds come with exceptionally high turbulence and high wind events, allowing for validation of devices at design margins. Mild summer winds allow for research apparatus installation and calibration. For a window into what weather you might encounter during validation, see the current weather at the NWTC.
Field Validation Infrastructure
The NWTC's facility includes a network of field validation sites, sheds, power, telecommunications, and infrastructure. With four utility-scale wind turbines—including a Department of Energy-owned GE 1.5-megawatt turbine—two Controls Advanced Research Turbines (CARTs), and small turbine validation capabilities, the site allows researchers and developers to explore the applicability of advanced sensors and data acquisition in bird and bat research.
Anemometers and multiple tall meteorological towers, including two 135-meter towers and two 80-meter towers, provide research-grade inflow measurements at multiple heights, such as wind speed, direction, humidity, and aspirated temperature. Characterized atmospheric conditions that affect turbine-wildlife interactions include shear, turbulence, air density, stability, or flux. Historical site conditions are available.
Controls Advanced Research Turbines
Two 600-kilowatt CARTs are custom-configured to serve as control validation beds for wind-wildlife interaction research, such as evaluating bird strike detection technologies. Each CART includes an upwind meteorological tower extending above rotor height. These turbines allow field validation of advanced multi-variable control algorithms, such as advanced sensors integrated with remote-inflow sensing devices. Structural, drivetrain, and inflow data are available in real time.
Staff Skills and Expertise
National Renewable Energy Laboratory staff at the NWTC offer a wide range of experience, including biology, modeling, and aerospace, electrical, industrial, and civil engineering—and more. With decades of industry experience, the NWTC's highly trained staff provides a creative, innovative environment ideal for researching and validating novel technologies.
Specific staff expertise includes:
- Sensor installation and maintenance, especially in the NWTC's harsh environment
- Simulation of individual turbines and plant-level dynamics
- IT support with cross-platform support experience in a research environment requiring interfacing with unique communications protocols
- Controls development
- Meteorology and wind resource assessment.
View all NREL publications about wildlife technology research and development.
The NWTC's unique research capabilities, experienced staff, and specialized state-of-the-art equipment provides industry partners with the technical support they need to take their wind-wildlife interaction research from the design table to the marketplace.
Past TD&I experience includes:
- Validating and visual camera wildlife detection systems using eagles and falcons
- Evaluating bird strike detection technologies
- Assisting U.S. Geological Survey experiments by installing thermal imaging cameras and managing data collection
- Analyzing available avian detection and deterrent technology to help an offshore wind developer meet pending permit requirements
- Hosting meetings that focus on wildlife detection and deterrent mitigation
- Convening wildlife statisticians, biologists, and engineers to develop evaluation protocol to determine the effectiveness of emerging avian and bat detection and deterrent technologies.