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Animals. electrocution at rest – lines for birds should be improved

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Electrocution during recreation – lines for birds should be improved

Pigeons sit on a street lamp. Photo: Sven Hoppe/dpa

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Eagle owls die there, as do storks and thousands of other birds; Every year, birds get electrocuted on power lines and utility poles. There is safety equipment, but it is useless. Environmentalists and network operators want to change that.

To prevent bird deaths along thousands of kilometers of power lines, conservationists believe the pylons must be better protected against ground faults and short circuits. The Nabu Nature Conservation Association, which estimates in a study that at least 1.5 million birds are killed annually on high and ultra-high voltage lines, considers previous protective devices inadequate. Above all, large birds such as storks, birds of prey and owls use overhead line masts for perching, roosting or breeding. “But they run the risk of bridging the line insulators or short-circuiting the lines,” said Johannes Ensle, president of the state of Baden-Württemberg Naboo.

Although network operators have already taken protective measures, they are often insufficient. The State Department for the Environment, Nabu, the Association for Energy and Water Management (VfEW) and several grid operators have joined forces to further reduce the risk and better protect birds on thousands of kilometers of medium voltage lines. Their goal. Particularly dangerous types of masts should be retrofitted in three stages. They signed a corresponding agreement on medium voltage lines in Renningen (Böblingen district) on Thursday, which is suitable for the already retrofitted power pole.

According to a Nabu-commissioned study, white storks and common beetles are the most common victims of electrocution in Germany, although the decontamination of dangerous pylons is planned, according to data from bird protection associations. Eastern European imperial eagles and falcons are threatened even by unsecured power poles, a study published in late June said. According to Nabu, a particularly large number of swans and other waterfowl and large birds have been killed by power line collisions.

However, the number of birds killed by electricity is difficult to estimate. The number of unreported cases is huge, said Nabu country manager Ensle. “Most electrocution victims fall from a pole and, if not already electrocuted, suffer serious or fatal injuries as a result of the fall.” After the crash, most of the carcasses were also quickly taken by predators such as foxes and coyotes. “Only very few victims remain directly at the crash site or stuck on the mast,” Ensle said. Estimates from other organizations are not available.

The federal Conservation Act already stipulates that medium-voltage line masts must be retrofitted. However, no deadline has been set, and previous upgrades have proven useless for many power poles.

Under the new Baden-Württemberg agreement, however, only about 70 percent of the network, with its more than 60,000 kilometers of medium-voltage lines, is covered by the operators involved. According to the Ministry of Environment, 13,750 kilometers of these lines are so-called overhead lines. The remaining 80 percent of the network of medium voltage lines is laid underground in the form of cables.

Baden-Württemberg State Secretary for the Environment André Baumann wants to convince other companies. “Now is the time to continue campaigning for other grid operators to join our joint project and provide more bird protection on medium voltage lines,” he said. Renningen.

However, better protection against electrocution will probably take a long time; the first of three phases specifies a five-year period to first inspect particularly problematic pillars and make them safer, for example with special covers. Bird protection markings on lines can also make them visible to animals. This can prevent most of the especially many collisions, as stated by Nabu.

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, like in other sectors, and we have to consider agricultural issues as well,” he said. Many masts stand on agricultural land.

The Netherlands, Luxembourg and Sweden are among the pioneers in bird protection. Underground cables are used there. “It’s definitely the best solution,” says Ensle, Nabu’s country manager. “It’s expensive, but it’s a trend, especially for new construction.”

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