Which is riskier for airports— a solar array or a grassy field? To better understand how the land around airports might affect the risk of bird-aircraft collisions, USDA-APHIS National Wildlife Research Center researchers and partners recently compared bird use at solar arrays and grasslands at airports in Arizona, Colorado, and Ohio.
Although results showed higher numbers of birds in the areas with solar arrays than in the grasslands, those birds seen represented fewer and less hazardous species than those in the grasslands. Overall, researchers observed 37 species of birds in the areas with solar arrays compared to 46 in the grasslands. The results suggest that even though birds were found in areas with solar arrays, the number and type of birds there do not necessarily increase the risk of bird-aircraft collisions and do not conflict with safety regulations concerning wildlife at airports. Solar arrays could play a major role in efforts to design and operate “greener”—and safer—airports.
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