It turns out that if you just paint a single blade of your wind turbine black, you’ll probably kill fewer birds. At least, that’s what researchers found in a study published last month where they tested their theory on a wind farm in the northwestern Norwegian town of Smøla, gathering data over the span of nine years.
With the help of a trained dog, researchers counted 18 birds downed by blades from four wind turbines between 2006 to 2013, and another eight birds killed in collisions with the turbine towers. That’s when researchers painted one blade of each of the four turbines black. The result was a sharp decline in bird deaths, totaling just six.
“The annual fatality rate was significantly reduced at the turbines with a painted blade by over 70%, relative to the neighboring control (i.e., unpainted) turbines. The treatment had the largest effect on reduction of raptor fatalities; no white-tailed eagle carcasses were recorded after painting,” researchers wrote in the study.
Researchers said that while the expense of painting a single blade on an already installed turbine was prohibitive, a pre-installation paint job on wind turbine blades would be less expensive and could raise the visibility of the blades, allowing more birds to live to fly another day.