Bioseco is a Polish based company founded by optical, radar and computer specialists, and focused on bird protection and surveillance systems, a matter of significant impact for the onshore and offshore wind industries.
How did the idea of Bioseco come about and what are a few milestones you reached to date?
Bioseco was set up in 2013 as a solution for the protection of birds at airports, where many bird strikes happen. We soon realized that the technology was well suited for wind farms as well and starting with 2016 we shifted in this direction. An initial pilot project proved successful and I then joined the company in 2018, coming from the wind industry myself, and with the goal of making this our main expertise. We have several successful ongoing systems installed across wind farms in Poland (including a recent one for PGE) and at the moment we are spreading our wings into foreign markets, with a pilot project in Germany.
Before delving into the specifics of the technology, could you describe the issue itself? What is the threat posed by wind farms to the bird habitat, and by the birds to investors?
The regulations in place are meant to protect birds, some of which are endangered species, especially raptors, which do get affected by wind farms in significant numbers for their population in the absence of protective equipment. Everyone needs to do a post monitoring assessment to assess how many collisions are taking place and reports need to be sent to the regional directorate of environmental protection.
Of course, some collisions are inevitable so they are included in the operational phase according to the investors’ predictions, but it is often very difficult to predict correctly and sometimes the consequences are dire - investors can be asked to shut down the turbines for hours, or even days and weeks by operating only at certain times of the day. This inevitably has a big impact on production and bottom lines. Also shutdowns can be prescribed already in the Environmental Permit for the wind farm lowering its AEP, which can be mitigated by automated systems such as Bioseco Bird Protection System.
How does Bioseco’s technology help to avoid reaching such a scenario?
We keep it simple – our technology aims to save birds’ lives and protect investors’ interests. The system detects birds in real time thanks to the use of stereo vision which estimates the distance from the turbine and the size of the bird.
The real threat are raptors, as smaller birds are numerous and have a bigger problems facing cats than wind turbines. At the moment there is a 0.06 collision rate of raptor/turbine/year which seems negligible. But counting the 100,000+ turbines across Europe, and the fact that raptors live in pairs we might be reducing the species population significantly in the medium to long-term as the number of turbines is and will be growing and availability of sites is ever reduced.
Depending on regulations, there are three different things we can do upon spotting the bird: we can activate a flashing light which warns the bird; secondly we can use a audio deterrent, which is a debated method as it scares them off, but on another hand might save their life; and the third option is stopping the turbine until the bird is outside of the immediate collision zone.
The typical stop time is around 4-6 min in total and based on the projects we have worked on so far the system calls for a turbine shutdown roughly 300 times per year, totaling around 20-30 operating hours per year. It is infinitely better to take preventative steps than be faced with a forced shutdown imposed by the environmental authorities, and it also proves that the investors cared and took the right measures to minimize the negative impact of wind farm on the environment. In most mature markets like Germany and Spain potential impact of wind energy on birds is becoming a major problem for the wind industry.
Indeed it sounds like it is better to be safe than sorry – what are the steps for the next two-three years for Bioseco given this potential?
We are focusing on conducting as many pilot projects as possible in Poland, but also on expanding globally. We have pilots planned in Spain for instance, where in some regions regulations were recently changed to stop the turbine automatically in case birds approach nearer than 500 m from the turbine or face harsh penalties. Likewise in Germany several projects have been put on hold due or were prescribed extended shutdowns due to high bird collision risk, so we have been working on studies to figure out how efficient systems such as ours are and whether they can be deemed sufficient as methods of reducing collision rates for the industry.
We do believe that they have a very high efficiency rate and that this technology will really kick off sooner rather than later. Once Germany approves a standard for the systems, you are either in on out. At Bioseco we are working on improving our detection distance as that it really what it boils down to and, of course, balancing costs against efficiency. We are now implementing Artificial Intelligence to improve the parameters and efficiency of our system.
Do you already have a sense of how the COVID-19 outbreak will be impact your business/the energy sector in the short term?
We are affected due to restrictions in cross-border movement, which is problematic for our projects abroad. We also can feel that some wind projects in construction are delayed due to problem in supply chain. On the other hand we see increased interest in our product as people have more time to explore new opportunities and optimization potential.
We believe that wind energy sector will not be that much affected in the medium term as it provides the cheapest energy nowadays and is the key in transition to green energy. Our business will grow together with the growth of new wind capacity worldwide and process of repowering, which is subject to new, more restrictive environmental requirements that did not exist 15-20 years ago.
What first measures did you set in place to manage the crisis?
We first contacted our clients to notify them about possible consequences of the epidemy on our relations that is especially where we had installations planned abroad. For the installed systems there is no impact as those operate automatically, without any on-site assistance. As suggested by the authorities we also decided to work remotely, which for an software company is not really anything new.
Other thoughts you would like to share regarding this topic?
Such extraordinary case as this epidemy revealed another advantage of the renewable energy such as wind and PV. Namely that in majority those operate unassisted and even in case of breakdown only fraction of capacity goes offline. Just imagine what can happen in case virus is detected in the teams operating a coal or nuclear power plant, if they need to be quarantined or hospitalized.
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