PEI

New radar gear on lookout for birds at Eastern Kings wind farm

The P.E.I. Energy Corporation says it has invested about a half million dollars in new radar equipment to track migratory birds around wind turbines. The new gear is currently at work at Eastern Kings wind farm, where talk of expanding the facility has been met with resistance from some residents.

P.E.I. Energy Corporation has invested about $500,000 to track bird migration

New radar equipment at Eastern Kings wind farm is giving wind-turbine managers a bigger, clearer picture of bird activity in the area. (P.E.I. Energy Corporation)

The P.E.I. Energy Corporation says it has invested about $500,000 in new radar equipment to track migratory birds around wind turbines.

The portable gear is currently at work at Eastern Kings wind farm, where talk of expanding the facility has been met with resistance from some residents.

"It's somewhat of a specialized piece of equipment and becoming more and more used as these turbines become larger," said Spencer Long, engineering project manager with the corporation. "Eastern Kings in particular is a known active bird area."

The energy corporation has said it wants to build seven new turbines in Eastern Kings, in addition to the 10 turbines already in operation. The new turbines would be about 170 to 180 metres tall, according to Long. The federal government suggests the use of radar to monitor bird activity when turbines are taller than 150 metres.

"We're prepared to spend the capital to do it, to get the information we need to develop the farm correctly," said Long.

The new radar gear went into operation in Eastern Kings in August. It tracks an area nearly 10-times larger than the existing acoustic monitoring equipment on-site, and provides more "granular detail" on birds flying by, according to Long.

The radar shows how many birds fly by and when, the size of the flock and the relative size of individual birds.

"It's running 24 hours a day, seven days a week," said Long. "So we've got very accurate data."

Radar may help answer residents' questions

At a public council meeting hosted by the Rural Municipality of Eastern Kings this summer, residents shared mixed views on wind turbines and the possibility of having more of them in the area.

The new radar equipment may help answer some residents' questions, according to one community official.

"I think it will provide a lot more information for the community," said Danielle Elliott, deputy mayor. "The energy corporation will be able to answer questions people might have."

Environmental assessment underway

Risk to birds increases as turbines get taller, according to the energy corporation.

"We haven't seen, I'll say, any alarms at this point relative to the existing farms," said Long. "However we know it's a risk with larger turbines. That's something we have to be cautious of.... Monitoring will be very important."

An environmental assessment for the potential expansion of Eastern Kings wind farm is currently underway.

The radar equipment is the first of its kind on Prince Edward Island, according to Long. He said similar technology is used in Alberta, to monitor bird activity around tailings ponds in oilsands projects. 

The radar will remain in place through October during fall bird migration and again next spring. The energy corporation plans to use it on an ongoing basis in Eastern Kings for up to two years, Long said.

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About the Author

Brian Higgins holds an honours Bachelor of Science degree in biology, as well as a Master of Arts degree in journalism. As a videojournalist, he currently reports for TV, radio and cbc.ca on Prince Edward Island with emphasis on courts and judicial issues.

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