Spoor uses AI technology to monitor bird activity near wind power installations, increasing knowledge and improving reporting of biodiversity impacts. “Our ultimate goal is to eliminate the conflict between birds and wind farms,” says Ask Helseth, CEO and co-founder of Spoor AS.
Offshore wind is expected to become the main source of power in Europe within two decades. To achieve climate neutrality by 2050, EU countries will expand their offshore wind capacity six-fold before 2030. A key challenge, however, is finding a balance between the demand for rapid wind farm build-out and the need to mitigate biodiversity loss.
“Currently, there are major data gaps on the cumulative impacts of large-scale windfarms on birdlife, and existing technology does not provide a reliable or complete picture,” explains Helseth.
Spoor provides AI-powered software for bird monitoring near wind farms, especially those offshore. Using computer vision, the solution automates remote detection of birds in flight and identification of bird species. Spoor captures video of the birds and turbines, and presents the data and analysis in an intuitive interface.
“With one of five bird species in Europe now threatened, biodiversity metrics are becoming more important. Biodiversity will be the next green wave because nature is struggling and governments and financial institutions are taking this into account,” says Helseth.
The digital dashboard provides an overview of the wind farm’s biodiversity impact. This includes metrics such as the number of birds counted, collisions over time and fluctuations in the presence of bird populations. Such information is crucial for compliance and impact reports to government authorities.
Spoor is useful for both the pre-construction and post-construction phases. “Bird monitoring is essential for the entire wind farm life cycle,” explains Helseth. “In the pre-construction phase, our data and analysis support design decisions to ensure the wind farm is built with the least disruption to bird activity. In the latter phase, we help to mitigate the impact of current operations and plan for more eco-friendly wind farms in the future.”
By automating data collection, Spoor technology avoids the downside of human observation.
“Humans in a boat or plane can monitor bird activity only for a short time due to weather, accessibility and labour rules. While a consultant can work for a few days, our technology can be out there continuously for several years. This increases the data-gathering window by a hundredfold,” says Helseth.
Spoor also eliminates human error and delivers more robust data with fewer uncertainties, which facilitates compliance and reduces project risk.
According to Helseth, Spoor is the only asset-light solution on the market. “We can use the customers’ existing cameras and other equipment, so they don’t need to invest in expensive custom hardware system. This reduces costs and lowers the barriers to adoption,” he explains.
Regulatory pressure and the push towards green infrastructure are the main drivers of biodiversity monitoring. According to Helseth, the total addressable market for Spoor in 2020 was USD 250 million and is expected to grow.
Offered as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), the Spoor solution is being released in stages. Automatic monitoring is currently available, and the digital dashboard and manual species ID will be added by the end of 2021. In 2022, automated species ID and smart curtailment to support bird avoidance measures will be available as well.
Spoor is currently in use in Norway and the UK, with plans to expand into Europe and Asia.
“We are providing crucial biodiversity data to enable the shift to renewable energy. I’m excited about the possibilities,” concludes Helseth.