Texan wind energy protects wildlife using radar

2 min read
Bird migrationary routes often limit the scope of wind farms. (Picture illustration - Shutterstock).
Bird migrationary routes often limit the scope of wind farms. (Picture illustration - Shutterstock).

Pattern Energy Group purchased the Gulf Wind project from Babcock & Brown. The 118 Mitsubishi wind turbines generate power for 80,000 homes, and the majority of the facility’s output has been contracted to a third-party, with the price secured under a long-term power agreement.

“Gulf Wind is a premier wind energy project that implements leading scientific technology and solidifies Pattern Energy’s presence in the Gulf Coast renewable energy market,” explains Mike Garland of Pattern Energy.

“Gulf Wind is situated in a unique coastal location where the winds blow strongest at the times of the day, as well as the seasons of the year, when electricity demand and prices are highest, translating into strong revenue and the ability to better meet demand in the markets we serve.”

The wind turbines are located on the Gulf Coast in Kenedy County, Texas, where strong winds allow the project to maximise energy output during periods of peak demand and peak pricing. The project is close to transmission lines which allow efficient delivery of power to nearby markets.

Radar shuts down wind turbines when birds approach

“In addition to its prime location, Gulf Wind uses advanced radar technology to protect the area’s migratory birds,” adds Garland. “This technology is an excellent example of Pattern’s commitment to be a leader in scientific innovation and a good steward of the environment.”

Scientists at Pattern, while under previous employment with Babcock & Brown, led the development of MERLIN SCADA radar technology for real-time bird mortality risk mitigation, the first of its kind in the world. The ‘early warning radar’ detects approaching flocks, assesses mortality risk conditions, and automatically activates mitigation responses, including the idling of all turbines when appropriate.

Gulf Wind has been operational since 2009 on part of a ranch owned by a charitable foundation. The sale requires Pattern to make quarterly royalty payments to that foundation so it can continue its work in South Texas.

Facility pays millions in taxes and conserves water

The wind farm pays US$3.5 million in local taxes and the annual output of green power offsets 518,000 tons of CO2. It also conserves 225 million gallons of water that would be consumed by traditional methods of power generation.

Pattern was formed 8 months ago and now has 4 GW of renewable energy projects in operation or under construction across North America, including Gulf Wind and the 101 MW Hatchet Ridge Wind project in Northern California currently under construction.