Embedded computers lend wings to nature conservation


What do embedded computers have to do with bats?

There are around 1000 species of bat worldwide, of which around 24 live in Germany. Almost all of them are under nature conservation. Bats are currently hibernating. But as soon as temperatures rise in late spring, the nimble hunters are hunting insects again at dusk and during the night. Just as nature's cycle dictates. However, this rhythm has been increasingly disturbed in recent years. This endangers the conservation of the protected species. 


According to the Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz (BUND), a German community engaged in nature protection, intensive forestry and agriculture as well as increasing road traffic are decisive disruptive factors. In the opinion of nature conservationists, the expansion of wind power plants also poses a threat to bats. For this reason, they are massively opposing the expansion of further wind farms and are thus partially slowing down the energy transition initiated by the federal government.


Industrial PCs support environmental and species protection

A solution from Fleximaus GmbH shows, how wind power and nature conservation can be reconciled. The company, based in Schillingsfürst in central Franconia, makes it possible to have bats and windmills side by side without any great effort. "We feel equally committed to our homeland as well as to environmental and species protection," explains Jochen Rößler, Managing Director and founder of Fleximaus GmbH. "The protection of the domestic bats is as important to us, as the economic use of citizen wind farms. 


These are no empty words, as the Fleximaus solution demonstrates in an impressing way. The combination of intelligent software and an embedded computer enables permanent and automated function monitoring of the wind turbines. In addition to the intelligent software and rain and temperature sensors, an industrial PC with integrated soft PLC is one of the essential components of Fleximaus. 



The Franconians have installed Kontron's KBox A-150-APL in the latest version of their system. Short delivery times, an attractive price/performance ratio and the compact design of the Embedded Box PC were important decision criteria. The fanless, robust design of the KBox A-150-APL also convinced the specialists. "These properties promise an extended product life cycle and high system availability," says Rößler. "In addition, due to its compact design, the KBox requires little space and can be used even under difficult environmental conditions.” A further criterion for awarding the contract to the Kontron product is the wide range of interfaces and expansion options that Kontron guarantees the Fleximaus managers. 


The KBox A-150-APL is equipped with an Intel® Pentium® Quad Core™ N4200 processor and, despite its low power dissipation, offers exactly the high performance that a solution such as Fleximaus requires. Kontron's KBox also meets the high security criteria required in the IoT environment.


The behaviour of the bats is special

But why is a solution like Fleximaus necessary at all? Here are some backgrounds: Bats only hunt under certain environmental conditions and show special behaviour. The animals hunt from dusk until the middle of the night. After that the activities decrease significantly. The search for food only takes place when the temperatures are relatively high, and the wind speeds are low. For the Fleximaus solution, the behaviour patterns of the bats determined by experts are combined with the evaluated sensor data. Based on these values, the system automatically switches off the systems and only switches them on again when the danger for the flying hunters has passed.


A particular hazard potential also occurs in agricultural zones during mowing. This applies less to bats than to local birds of prey. Wind turbines in these areas have to consider the so-called 'mowing shutdown' in order to protect birds of prey. This is a legal requirement for environments in which, for example, the protected red kite has its hunting area. 


If the wind turbine is mowed or soil cultivation is carried out within a certain radius, the turbines must be switched off. The reason: mowing startles meadow and field dwellers, which in turn attracts their predators, such as the red kite. The high wind turbines are a deadly danger for the flying robbers. Therefore, they must stand still during the mowing. 


Hunting periods determine wind turbine operation

By using the Fleximaus solution, the wind farm's monitoring system is informed about which specific sites pose a threat to the protected animals. The system then automatically shuts down these wind turbines during the hunting period in order not to endanger the search for food. An intelligent algorithm automatically decides on the operation or shutdown of the wind turbine. This enables wind turbine operators to achieve maximum operating times. 


The algorithm Fleximaus uses, automatically implements, among other things, the so-called "night tenths". In bat protection, the term "night tenth" stands for the division of the night into ten time periods, from sunset to sunrise. The main hunting time of the bats lies between sunset and the middle of the night. Then the activities of the night hunters decrease and come to an almost complete standstill until sunrise. 


With Fleximaus, wind power operators are no longer tied to rigid switch-off times but can usually put their systems back into operation much earlier due to the measured and evaluated hunting activities. Fleximaus also prevents unnecessary shutdown when it rains, as it has been proven that bats are no longer hunting when drizzle sets in. 


The data is documented directly in the industrial PC but is redundantly stored on a server and is documented here unchanged in a second database. "Despite reliable bat protection, operating companies can demonstrably reduce their losses thanks to Fleximaus, since the time windows for shutting down are significantly reduced by the precise calculations. This allows species protection and the economical operation of wind farms to be reconciled," explains Rößler.


What do you think of wind power? Do you believe that a solution like Fleximaus can help to further accelerate the expansion of wind farms and support the transformation of energy systems?

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