Laser system could protect shearwaters

LIHUE — The Kauai Island Utility Cooperative has begun the third year of testing an experimental laser system to prevent endangered seabirds from colliding with power lines.

The testing, which will continue until the end of the year, involves installing laser arrays on transmission poles near Kaumualii Highway in the vicinity of Kilohana Crater and Halfway Bridge and also along spans of transmission lines on the Power Line Trail.

The laser tests will be conducted at night. When the equipment is in use, members of the public may see a green glow near the power lines.

The Newell’s shearwater and Hawaiian petrel are threatened native species vulnerable to death or injury from collisions with unseen objects because they fly out to sea and back at night and in the early morning.

The premise of the testing is that if birds see what they may perceive as a green “fence” near the power lines, they will take evasive action and fly over or around the obstacles without actually striking wires. The testing will affirm or disprove that premise. The first two years of the program were devoted to testing equipment for effectiveness and reliability.

The research is a collaboration between KIUC and Kauaʻi Endangered Seabird Recovery Project, a Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources/Division of Forestry and Wildlife project, administered by the Pacific Studies Co-operative Unit of the University of Hawai‘i.

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