Animals: electrocution while resting – lines must be improved for birds

the animals
Electrocution at rest – lines must be improved for birds

Pigeons sitting on a street lamp. Photo: Sven Hoebe / D

© dpa-infocom GmbH

The eagle owl dies there, like the storks and several thousand other birds: year after year, the birds suffer from electrocution in power lines and towers. There is a safety technique, but it is useless. Conservatives and network operators want to change that.

In order to prevent bird deaths along thousands of kilometers of power lines, conservationists believe that towers must be better protected against ground faults and short circuits. The Nature Conservation Society NABU, which in a study hypothesized that at least 1.5 million birds are killed on high- and high-voltage lines each year, considers the prior protective equipment insufficient. Above all, large birds such as storks, raptors, and masted owls use the upper lines for sitting, sleeping, or as breeding grounds. “But they risk tying the line insulators or shortening the lines,” said Johannes Ansel, president of the state of Baden-Württemberg-Nabu.

Although network operators have already taken precautionary measures, they are often not enough. The state Department of Environment, Naboo, the Energy and Water Management Association (VfEW) and several network operators have joined forces to further reduce risks and improve bird protection across thousands of kilometers of medium voltage lines. Their goal: in three stages, particularly dangerous mast types must be modified. They signed a similar agreement on medium voltage lines on Thursday in Renningen (Boeblingen region) – in proportion to the already modified power shaft.

According to the study conducted by Naboo with data from bird conservation societies, common white storks and hawks die most often from electric shocks in Germany – although defusing dangerous towers is described. When the study was published at the end of June, the study said, Eastern European imperial vultures and Saker hawks are threatened by unsecured pillars of power. According to Nabu, the collision with power lines killed a particularly large number of pelicans and other waterfowl and large birds.

However, it is difficult to estimate the number of birds killed by electrocution. Nabu Mayor Insel said the number of unreported cases is staggering. “Most electrocution victims fall off the mast, and if they are not electrocuted, they are seriously injured or fatally injured by the fall.” After the collapse, a large proportion of the carcasses were quickly carried away by predators such as foxes and fish. “Very few casualties remained directly at the scene or stuck on the mast,” Insel said. Estimates from other organizations are not available.

The Federal Nature Conservation Act already states that the masts of medium voltage lines must be retrofitted. However, no deadline has been set, and previous upgrades have proven futile for many power towers.

However, with the new Baden-Württemberg Agreement, only about 70 percent of the network of more than 60,000 km of medium voltage lines is covered by the respective operators. According to the Ministry of Environment, 13,750 kilometers of these lines are called overhead lines. The remaining 80 percent of the medium voltage line network was laid underground as cables.

The Minister for the Environment in Baden-Württemberg, Andre Baumann, wants to convince other companies: “Now is the time to continue campaigning for other network operators to join our joint venture and to ensure more protection for birds on medium voltage lines,” he said in Renningen.

However, better protection against electrocution is likely to take a long time: in the first of the three phases, a period of five years is established in order to inspect specially suspended towers and make them safer with special covers, for example. Bird protection markings on the lines can make the animals visible. This could prevent a significant portion of the numerous collisions in particular, Naboo announced.

VfEW President Klaus Seiger asked to understand the schedule: “We are planning a gradual upgrade because we are limited in terms of personnel and material availability – as in other areas – and we also have to look at agricultural issues,” he said. Several masts stand on agricultural land.

The Netherlands, Luxembourg and Sweden are among the pioneers in bird protection. Underground cables are used there. “This is definitely the best solution,” says Naboo City Mayor, Insel. “It’s expensive, but it’s the trend, especially for new buildings.”


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