Saturday, September 14, 2013

Digital Camouflage for Wind Turbines

This is to suggest using digital camouflage to make wind turbines less visible from a distance, but at the same time more visible close up. Wind turbines are considered by many to be an ugly blot on the landscape. They are also a collision hazard for birds, light aircraft and helicopters. So I propose applying a pattern of contrasting light and dark patches to wind turbines, which close up would make them stand out, but from a distance would blend into the landscape.

Digital Camouflage is a form of military camouflage using square blocks of different colors. The squares are small enough so they cannot be distinguished at a distance.

Digital camouflage has been used on small  wind turbines. In "power to the people" (27 January 2009), Dominic Hyde describes how his company, Hyde Definition, applied a patter of two shades of gray, plus white to a domestic wind turbine in the UK. The US Bureau of Land Management experimented with digital camouflage on renewable power installations, but did not consider it for large wind turbines due to the need for them to be visible to aircraft and birds ("BLM experiments with camouflage to hide renewable power structures", Kimberly Hirai, High Country News, 31 October 2011).

Wind turbines are normally painted white, so black squares could be painted on them (or applied as decals) to give a gray color from a distance. Close up the checkerboard of black and white would resemble the high visibility patterns applied to antennas. This would not be true digital camouflage, as there would only be two colors used and there would be a uniform pattern used, but it would still make the structure less visible from a distance.

If it was necessary to make the structure even more visible close up, it could be painted bright safety yellow, with contrasting dark color selected for the overlying squares, so from a distance the result would still appear light gray.

The pixels on the turbine would need to be large enough to be visible close up, but indistinguishable from a distance. The Apple 5s mobile phone has a 326 ppi. display. Held at arms length (1m), the pixels on the display are hard to distinguish. This suggests that pixels on a tower would need to be about 75mm (1,000 times larger than the Apple's pixels), to be indistinguishable from 1 km away (1,000 times an arm's length).

This approach of a pattern which is high viability close up but camouflage at a distance may also have application in the military. There is a high risk of collision between camouflaged military aircraft, vehicles, ships and buildings. Having a form of camouflage which makes them more visible close up would have safety benefits.

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