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Utility Company Protects Birds with Lasers

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Jul 03, 2014 11:09 AM EDT
power lines
A Hawaiian utility company is experimenting with using brightly colored laser lights to act as a "fence" around utility wires and poles, protecting birds who commonly fly straight into the high power lines during times of low visibility. (Photo : Pixabay)

A Hawaiian utility company is experimenting with using brightly colored laser lights to act as a "fence" around utility wires and poles, protecting birds who commonly fly straight into the high power lines during times of low visibility.

The work reportedly began Monday night, and aims to use an initial 30 lasers to create a "light fence" around one portion of power lines on Kauaʻi Island.

Carey Koide, Kauaʻi Island Utility Cooperative's (KIUC) transmission and distribution manager, also happens to oversee a great deal of wildlife conservation efforts on the island. He explained in a recent press release that the narrowly focused green beams of light are not hazardous to the eyes, but are bright enough to make birds think twice about landing or flying through the lines.

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Koide and a research team first plan to ruin several experiments with this first "light fence," determining the effectiveness of various beam colors as well as turning the sense on and off at different intervals to determine if the changes effect the number of birds who strike the lines.

"As far as we know, this is the first time anywhere that lasers have been used to create a 'fence' for the birds," Koide said. "The purpose of this research is to learn more about the birds and their patterns of activity so we can come up with ways to minimize potential hazards and do it in a cost-effective way."

The lasers, developed by Oceanit of Honolulu, are currently being installed by KIUC personnel on six spans adjacent to the Kauaʻi coffee fields. They point parallel to the ground, creating a kind of endless fence. They are also not hazardous to aircraft, as the installation is not in designated air space.

According to KIUC, if a success, this "laser fencing" will later be installed on transmission poles along the Powerline Trail between Wailuā and the North Shore, providing an inexpensive alternative to burying these lines.

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