The Asahi Shimbun
The Environment Ministry is urgently trying to find ways to stop migrating birds from crashing into wind turbines amid government plans to dramatically increase this form of power generation.
Officials said the three-year research program will get under way next fiscal year.
The program is in line with government efforts to produce clean forms of energy as a way to reduce carbon monoxide emissions and combat global warming.
Generators typically are built in coastal or hilly areas where there is an abundance of wildlife.
Since 2004, there have been five cases of majestic white-tailed eagles, designated as a protected species, dying after crashing into wind turbines near the Hokkaido cities of Ishikari and Nemuro.
The birds migrate from Sakhalin and other regions further north to escape the harsh winter conditions there.
Wildlife groups have been calling for measures to reduce the number of casualties among rare birds of prey and for other steps to protect natural habitats.
Birds tend to fly into the turbines when visibility is poor, particularly at night and when there is fog, according to Iwao Ogawa, a representative of the nonprofit organization Eco Network that held a symposium on the issue in Sapporo in 2003.
In total, 1,050 wind-power generators were operating around the country as of the end of March, each generating at least 10 kilowatts of electricity, officials of the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy said.
The central government has set a goal of having wind generators produce 3 million kilowatts of electricity by fiscal 2010. That means many more will have to be built.
The ministry’s three-year project will look at things like changing the color of the turbines and lighting them up at night to stop birds flying into them.
It will also experiment with radar to spot migrating bird patterns so that wind-power generators can be switched off in time.
If these or other measures are found to be effective, the ministry will instruct local governments and private businesses that operate wind-power generating facilities to implement these steps.
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