Every year, thousands of birds are electrocuted in high-voltage power lines and towers. There is a security technology, but it is not usable. Now things are moving.
In order to prevent birds from dying on power lines, conservationists believe that towers must be better secured against ground faults and short circuits. The Nature Conservation Society Naboo, which assumes that at least 1.5 million birds are killed each year in a study, considers pre-protection devices on thousands of kilometers of medium voltage lines insufficient. Above all, large birds such as storks, raptors, and masted owls use the upper lines for sitting, sleeping, or as breeding grounds. “In doing so, they risk binding the line insulators or shortening the lines,” said Johannes Insel, president of the state of Baden-Württemberg-Nabu.
Although network operators have already taken precautionary measures, they are often not enough. In order to further reduce risks and to better protect birds throughout Baden-Württemberg, the state’s Ministry of Environment, Naboo, the Association for Energy and Water Management (VfEW) and several network operators have collaborated. Their goal: in three stages, particularly dangerous mast types must be modified. And they signed a similar agreement on Thursday in Renningen (province of Boeblingen) – befitting an already modified power shaft.
Threatens the survival of imperial eagles and Saker hawks
According to the study conducted by Naboo with data from bird conservation societies, common white storks and hawks die most often in Germany from electric shock – although defusing dangerous towers is prescribed. 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 a pole, and if they have not been electrocuted, they are seriously or fatally injured by the fall.” A large proportion of carcasses are also quickly carried away by predators such as foxes and stags after impact. “Very few victims remained directly at the scene or were suspended from the mast,” Insel said. Estimates from other organizations are not available.
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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.
The tags are designed to prevent collisions
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.”