Spoor Uses AI to Save Birds from Wind Turbines | TechCrunch - Latest Global News

Spoor Uses AI to Save Birds from Wind Turbines | TechCrunch

According to the US Energy Information Administration, wind is the largest source of renewable energy in the United States. However, wind farms come with an environmental cost, as wind turbines can have devastating effects on bird populations. Meet Spoor, the startup using AI to help wind farms mitigate this risk.

Spoor is software that uses machine learning to recognize birds on video while recording their movements and predicting their flight patterns. Spoor co-founder and CEO Ask Helseth told TechCrunch that government regulations in several countries require wind farms to monitor and track their impact on birds, particularly in areas with endangered species, but was before AI-powered computer vision This isn’t a good way to do that.

“Regulators’ expectations are rising, but the industry doesn’t have a great tool,” Helseth said. “Many people [go out] with binoculars and trained dogs in the field to find out how many birds collide with the turbines.”

Spoor’s system for continuous site monitoring offers a major improvement, Helseth said. Existing wind farms can use the data to better respond to bird migration patterns and slow or even stop wind turbines when increased bird activity is expected. Companies can also use the technology to monitor potential wind farm locations and assess their risk to local bird populations.

“Wind farms are quite large, many hundreds of square kilometers, and trying to use computer vision to basically monitor the air is an interesting technological challenge,” Helseth said. “We needed to develop a scalable technology that could detect birds. It’s kind of a novel use of computer vision and our own data pipeline.”

The Oslo, Norway-based company just raised a $4 million seed funding round from investors including Futurum Ventures, Nysnø and biodiversity-focused VC Superorganism. Ørsted Ventures, the venture arm of Ørsted, one of the world’s largest offshore wind farm companies, also participated in the round.

Helseth said they attracted interest from more than 100 investors for the seed round and were very strategic about who they chose to work with. Superorganism was the only company they contacted. Superorganism co-founder and CEO Kevin Webb said the company had been eyeing Spoor for some time and was excited about the investment because Spoor fits perfectly with Superorganism’s thesis of supporting companies that help the planet move toward zero emissions come without harming nature and biodiversity.

“We saw them very early on and since we’ve known them they’ve started working with the largest wind farm developers in the world,” Webb told TechCrunch. “Ask and his team hired incredibly well. We were honestly blown away by the progress they made in building the team.”

Spoor’s launch in Norway was a helpful factor in the company’s progress, as Norway has an advanced wind farm program. In addition, wind energy is used more in Europe than in the USA, said Helseth. But the company is eyeing expansion into the US, which should be a windfall in itself.

The US government has an ambitious goal of reaching 30 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity by 2030, presenting a huge opportunity for companies like Spoor. Any company that wants to build a wind farm in the United States must comply with US Fish and Wildlife Service guidelines and ensure that their wind farms do not violate laws such as the Endangered Species Act or the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. In the United States, regulators are particularly strict about the impact of wind turbines on bald eagle populations. Helseth added that he has seen wind farms delayed or not built at all due to issues related to native bird populations.

Spoor isn’t the only one using AI image processing to solve the problem. Others include Woolnorth Renewables and Robin Radar.

Nevertheless, Helseth hopes that Spoor can help eliminate some of these bottlenecks and be a growing, positive factor in the industry’s further development.

“We are still a small company, but we have interest from all over the world, the industry is hungry for our solutions,” said Helseth.

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