Wind power in Poland has been growing for two decades. The installed capacity of wind farms exceeded a symbolic 100MW in 2005 reaching over 8250MW today (1Q2023). The maturity of the industry and Ambiens’ 15 years of experience covering 3GW, give us a reasonable basis for comprehensive statistical and comparative analyses in the context of the projected and actual environmental impact of wind farms. The implementation of this innovation not coincidentally coincides with the unblocking of onshore wind power (change of the 10H rule to 700m) and completely new challenges during project development. On the other hand, the main inspiration is the outdatedness of existing guidelines and their increasing divergence from practical knowledge and current standards.

The impact of wind farms on birds and bats is a key potential impact addressed in both environmental impact assessment and post-implementation studies at the project’s operation stage. Working with foreign specialists and representatives of financial institutions responsible for compliance and standardization, we took on the challenge of improving this area in the country by making it measurable. And so our database, updated monthly, provides the opportunity to relate the results of new forecasting models (greenfield) and the results of field work (O&M) from individual projects with multi-criteria industry benchmarks.

Several years of post-implementation studies obligatorily including monitoring of bird and bat mortality have contributed to the collection of a representative sample of victims of collisions with wind power plants in Poland. All Ambiens monitoring has received approval from the RDOŚ of the submitted methodology and acceptance and acceptance of the Reports both on an annual and final basis. Data on collision victims have been collected in a database, which currently contains information on 275 individual birds and 324 individual bats that have died at wind farms (as of March 2023). The data is nationwide and has been collected since 2014 on 21 wind farms covering a total of 195 wind turbines. The database is a dynamic structure, as it is successively enlarged with subsequent post-implementation monitoring and as it grows, the statistical significance of the analyses increases.

For each victim included in the database, the following were recorded: location of the power plant (county, municipality, farm name, turbine number), exact location of the find (geographic coordinates, distance from the tower), date of the find, description of the victim (animal group, species, body condition, if possible age and sex), weather conditions during the search, and possible comments and other valuable observations (e.g., moment of collision, if observed), etc.

Based on the data collected in the database, the following issues can be analyzed, among others:

  1. species composition of collision victims in general;
  2. the frequency of occurrence of the species in question (i.e., the collision rate of species) on a regional, national scale;
  3. Seasonality of collisions at different time scales (phenological periods, months, decades, and pentad) by different project sizes;
  4. the scatter of casualties in the field, i.e. the distance of found casualties from the power plant tower;
  5. The dependence of the number of casualties on the size of the wind farm (both the absolute number of casualties and the relative number, i.e. the casualty rate per turbine per year);
  6. The dependence of mortality on the location of the wind turbine within the wind farm (e.g., central, edge, or island);
  7. Changes in mortality with the duration of wind farm operation.

In addition, taking into account spatial data, activity results, data from the SCADA system or automatic recording devices, we can also determine, among other things:

  1. the dependence of the mortality rate on the abundance of birds and bats;
  2. The effect on the scale of mortality of the location of the power plant in the field in relation to terrain and land use (e.g., forests, forested areas, watercourses and reservoirs);
  3. impact on the scale of mortality of the location of the power plant in the field in relation to infrastructure facilities (other wind farms, photovoltaic power plants, masts, roads, railroads, etc.).

Thanks to this unique approach, we are able to respond even more precisely to key issues including how to properly survey a site and optimally design a wind farm, and how to assess the environmental impact of any wind investment along with the management of possible minimization/mitigation measures. This translates into the dynamics of permitting and the quality of cooperation with Regional Environmental Directorates. Analyses built through the Ambiens database also serve the ongoing needs of post-implementation reports, e.g., in terms of revising the time period for shutting down individual wind turbines to the period of highest collision. Finally, a later indirect beneficiary of such solutions are international financial institutions, receiving environmental documents that comply with internal requirements (e.g. risk collision model) and are clear and unambiguous, which streamlines the due diligence process and speeds up financing.

The solution successfully implemented and adopted by key stakeholders is widely used today in onshore wind power. On this basis, offshore wind energy also has opportunities for improvements, both during initial development (Phase II) and upcoming operation (Phase I).

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