Blasting seagulls with strobe lights and loud noises can prevent offshore wind infrastructure being covered in guano – or seabird poo – according to a year-long trial at the Galloper wind farm off the east coast of England.
Seabird faeces poses a serious health risk to offshore wind workers, due to its highly carcinogenic qualities, and is also very expensive and unpleasant to remove.
But installing a ‘scaretech’ system on the substation at the 56-turbine project has led to guano coverage being reduced from 50-60% to zero, according to Galloper operator RWE Renewables.
The ‘scaretech' system is based on the centuries-old concept of a scarecrow – using a model to scare birds away from crops – and is installed on a stainless steel base and powered by a lithium-drive cell battery and floating solar panels.
It consists of a mannequin dressed in the bright, protective clothing traditionally worn by an offshore wind worker and equipped with motion sensors to detect bird flights around the wind farm. When it detects movement, it emits loud noises and strobe lights in the direction of the birds.
Scaretech’s inventor – who is also an offshore client representative – conceived of the device when he noticed that the area around an abandoned crew jacket was the only area where seagulls were not landing.
Terry Christie told Windpower Monthly he has now joined wind service company, CPower Energy, to rent out the ‘Scaretech’ system to offshore wind operators globally.
He added: “When the gulls approach, they fly around and circle out of curiosity. When the birds come up to the scarecrow and it activates, it starts screaming and the lights start flashing. It’s like a bomb going off and the birds go into panic mode and scatter in every direction.
“Over time, the birds never become accustomed to the device and simply stay away from it.”