Vattenfall Has It on Video: No Seabird Collided with Aberdeen Offshore Wind Turbines During Two-Year Monitoring Campaign

Updated on 1 March with a download link to the final report (full study).


Vattenfall has been testing technology and conducting research at its Aberdeen Offshore Wind Farm for several years now. On 28 February, the company reported the findings of a study into seabird behaviour, performed in collaboration with bird and nature protection organisations, which employed a straightforward approach – recording seabirds that are flying near the wind turbines on video.

The two-year study yielded more than 10,000 videos of birds at the 11-turbine offshore wind farm, with no collisions or near-misses with the wind turbines recorded.

Vattenfall installed a radar-camera technology at Aberdeen Offshore Wind Farm, also known as the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre (EOWDC), in 2019. Seabirds were then tracked during the April-October period, when bird densities were highest in the Aberdeen area, in 2020 and 2021.

The company published a report on the first year of monitoring in May 2021. On 28 February 2023, Vattenfall issued the full study.

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The wind farm was fitted with a new-generation radar and artificial intelligence (AI) technology to monitor seabird flight behaviour during the breeding and post-breeding times.

The radar tracked birds flying towards the offshore wind farm, which then activated cameras and generated video footage and 3D flight tracks. This was used to identify the species of birds as they moved through the wind farm and to monitor their avoidance behaviour in an operational offshore wind farm.

The study also produced data about the flying patterns of different bird species around the wind farm’s turbines, including kittiwakes, herring gulls, black-backed gulls, and gannets.

Nearly all species of tracked seabirds avoided the zone of the wind turbine blades by adjusting their flight paths to fly in between the turbines. This pattern was similar for all three species of large gulls, Vattenfall says.

The research revealed kittiwakes displayed avoidance behaviour from around 150 metres from the rotors, commuting herring gulls from around 100 metres, and feeding herring gulls from 70 metres. In general, gannets and small and large gulls showed a strong tendency to avoid flying into the area swept by the turbine blades, the study found.

Of the birds that came within 10 metres of the zone swept by the blades, more than 96 per cent adjusted their flight paths to avoid a collision, often by flying parallel to the plane of the rotor.

The study is part of a EUR 3 million research investment by Vattenfall to learn more about offshore wind and the environment around the EOWDC, which is one of the largest programmes of its kind in the world, according to the offshore wind developer.

The project advisors were the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), together with a panel of experts from NatureScot, Joint Nature Conservation Committee and Marine Scotland Science.

With the latest report on hand, Vattenfall says the findings could help speed up the consenting process for wind farms by providing more accurate information about the risk of bird collisions using realistic values for flight speed, orientation and altitude.

“We need to reduce emissions and build clean energy infrastructure in ways which protect and conserve wildlife. This is ground-breaking research that will significantly change our understanding of how seabirds behave around offshore wind farms“, said Robin Cox, Environmental Specialist at Vattenfall.

“The fact that no collisions or even near misses were recorded in two years of recording, along with so much information about the reaction of individual species means we should be able to more confidently consent wind projects while protecting the UK’s internationally important seabird populations”.

EOWDC has been in operation since 2018. The 93.2 MW offshore wind farm comprises eleven Vestas turbines with a capacity of 8.8 MW, which were the most powerful in the world when EOWDC was built. 

The suction bucket jacket foundations at Aberdeen Offshore Wind Farm were also world-first.

The wind farm will, among other things, now also test hydrogen-producing technology. In May 2022, Vattenfall was awarded innovation funding from the UK’s Net Zero Innovation Portfolio Low Carbon Hydrogen Supply 2 fund to develop the world’s first hydrogen-producing offshore wind turbine, with the electrolyser sited directly onto an existing operational turbine at the EOWDC.

Under the EUR 3 million environmental research programme that the developer is carrying out, Vattenfall is studying the effects of offshore wind on bottlenose dolphins, salmon sea trout and other marine species.


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