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Reducing Bird Electrocution

© RTE

What is bird electrocution?

Electrocution is a problem mainly linked to the medium voltage type of power lines, where perching individuals can be electrocuted due to a short distance between the conductors or between the conductors and the power pole.

Electrocution occurs when:

  • A bird simultaneously touches a current-carrying line and a grounded component (e.g., the power pole) while perching.

  • A bird simultaneously touches two charged components or lines, causing a short-circuit.

Mortality caused by electrocution can have a significant impact on the survival of certain bird species and result in the loss of many thousands of individuals each year (McClure et al., 2018; Guil et al., 2022)

© RPS Buzzards victims of electrocution

© RPS

Electrocution ©Enedis

© Enedis

Risk of electrocution is attributed to different variables:

  • Species-specific characteristics, size, and behaviour.

  • Surroundings conditions such as the proximity of power lines in relation to the birds’ activities. For example, some species as White Storks uses power tower as nesting sites.

  • Combination of two features specific to power lines: the design and the materials used.

What are the solutions?

The mitigation of bird electrocution risk along power grids relies on implementing strategic solutions that address the technical aspects of power poles and towers. Scientific consensus emphasizes that the design and construction of these structures play a pivotal role in determining the level of risk posed to avian species. An effective approach involves adopting designs that facilitate safe perching for birds on electric poles, minimizing the likelihood of electrocution incidents. Integrating bird-friendly features into the infrastructure, such as insulated materials or modified perch configurations, stands out as a proactive measure to enhance the safety of avian populations. 

© RPS Bird perching

© RPS

Moreover, a fundamental solution lies in the replacement of hazardous and inadequately designed poles. This comprehensive retrofitting significantly mitigates bird casualties attributed to electrocution by eliminating the inherent dangers associated with outdated infrastructure. By prioritizing the replacement of problematic poles, utilities can contribute to the preservation of avian biodiversity and the overall ecological balance.  

What are the project actions?

The SafeLines4Birds project aims to neutralise hazardous poles and deploy bird deterrence devices in areas identified as having the highest risk in France, Belgium and Portugal. The focus is on fitting supports, specifically those pinpointed as most vulnerable to the target species, with the goal of preventing electrocution. Neutralisation involves insulating live bare parts to completely eliminate the risk. Simultaneously, deterrents will be installed to discourage birds from perching or nesting in precarious locations. The combined efforts aim to significantly reduce electrocution risks, achieving a range from 80% (through deterrence) to 100% (via neutralisation).

We will also install perches or platforms in France, Belgium, and Portugal on supports frequented by birds, to encourage safe landings and nesting.

 

The objective is to achieve a significant reduction in electrocutions of targeted species at risk sites, aiming for a 100% decrease through the installation of over 182 platforms and 320 perches. Moreover, it seeks to safeguard 100% of Osprey pairs nesting on pylons.

white Stork
ospreyNesting

The installation of platforms and the relocation of nests serve several purposes:

  • Prevent birds from attempting to nest unsuccessfully in the same towers upon their return.

  • Provide an accessible alternative with a pre-existing nest nearby, ensuring zero electrocution risk and substantially minimising the danger of collisions with nearby lines.

  • Mitigate the risk of rural fires stemming from incidents on the line.

These actions concern the Bearded vulture, Cinereous vulture and Egyptian Vulture primarily, but also other target species such as the Bonelli’s eagle, White stork, Black stork, Common crane and Lesser kestrel.

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