Third International Scientific and Practical Conference “Eagles of the Palearctic: Study and Conservation”

Raptors Conservation. Suppl. 2. Proceedings of Conferences

Some Aspects of the Problem of Bird Protection From electrocution on Overhead Power Lines in Kazakhstan

Pestov M.V. (Environmental Center “Dront”, Nizhny Novgorod, Russia)
Ongarbaev N.Kh. (Biodiversity Research and Conservation Center Community Trust, Astana, Kazakhstan)

Mark Pestov
Ongarbayev Nurlan Email:
Recommended citation: Pestov M.V., Ongarbaev N.Kh. Some Aspects of the Problem of Bird Protection From Electrocution on Overhead Power Lines in Kazakhstan. – Raptors Conservation. 2023. S2: 390–394. DOI: 10.19074/1814-8654-2023-2-390-394 URL:

The problem of mass death of birds of prey from electrocution on overhead power lines (PL) of medium power (6–10 kV) in the territory of Kazakhstan is well known since the times of the USSR and is still relevant.

Our team has been dealing with this problem since 2010 (Saraev, Pestov, 2011; Pestov et al., 2012, 2015, 2019, 2021). Over the past years, we have repeatedly encountered various aspects of this problem and observed the consequences for ornithofauna from the use of certain technical solutions in the design, construction, operation, and reconstruction of PL. The present report is devoted to a brief review of some options of technical solutions in equipping PL in Kazakhstan.

Numerous studies have confirmed that the most dangerous structure for birds is a 180˚ inverted T-shaped metal grounded traverse with pin insulators mounted on a reinforced concrete pole, combined with an uninsulated current-carrying wire. Unfortunately, this design of PLs is still the most widely used in Kazakhstan, their total length is tens of thousands of kilometers. Attempts to make it safer for birds by installing distracting T-shaped attachments, deterrent metal "whiskers" or additional "blank" insulators proved ineffective, and in the case of "whiskers" – harmful. It is obvious that the most optimal from the point of view of biodiversity conservation is the refusal to use PLs in favor of alternative solutions, which allows not only to completely eliminate the death of birds from electrocution and mechanical damage from collision with wires, but also preserves the aesthetic value of the landscape, which is especially important for protected areas. A vivid example of such a progressive and responsible approach in Kazakhstan is the Beineu-Shymkent main gasline owned by Beineu-Shymkent Gas Pipeline LLP. This pipeline does not have an associated PL, electrochemical protection in this case is provided by cathodic protection stations (CPS). All CPSs on this gas pipeline are powered by modular-packaged electrical power plants with Capstone C30/C65 autonomous microturbine units manufactured by Capstone Green Energy Corporation (CGRN) from the USA. The official distributor of CGRN in Kazakhstan is Synergy Astana LLP. We hope that in the future this technology will be widely used in the construction of new pipelines and consider it necessary to promote this experience.

Another priority technical solution is the use of self-supporting insulated wire (SIW) for PL installing, which not only reduces the probability of electrical injuries, but also practically eliminates the possibility of short circuits during operation. However, the use of SIW alone does not completely eliminate bird deaths.

As our studies on PLs running along the Beyneu-Chelkar railroad have shown, the possibility of electrocution persists when birds come into contact with devices used to protect PLs made of SIW from atmospheric overvoltages (lightning). The degree of danger for birds depends on the design of these devices. The death of birds of prey from electrocution has been recorded on PLs equipped with air-gap arresters. At the same time, no bird deaths have been recorded on overhead power lines equipped with longflash-over arresters without spark gaps. On this basis, the use of SIW in combination with long-flash-over arresters can be recommended throughout Kazakhstan. In the best case scenario, this design could be additionally equipped with a T-shaped insulated perch on the pole arm, distracting large birds of prey from using the SIW as a perch, which is observed in its absence.

In recent years, during the construction and reconstruction of overhead power lines in Kazakhstan, the shaped dovetail traverse with suspended insulators has been widely used instead of the traditional traverse with pin insulators. The use of this structure reduces the number of dead birds, but, unfortunately, does not exclude the facts of deaths of large birds of prey, including eagles, which due to insufficiently large distance between the horizontal component of the traverse and the current-carrying wire above it (about 70 cm), can cause a short circuit by touching the head of the wire. It is obvious that by making minor changes leading to increase of the above-mentioned gap up to 100 cm, the dovetail traverse design would become practically safe for birds.

In some regions of Kazakhstan, presumably from the USSR times, overhead power lines made on wooden poles and overhead power lines on reinforced concrete poles with wooden arms have been preserved. Due to the dielectric properties of wood, these structures are relatively safe for birds in terms of the possibility of electrocution. However, the share of such overhead power lines is small and is likely to decrease further over time. It is obvious that the use of modern wooden poles and insulated composite arms is very promising, however, we are not aware of the facts of application of these technologies in Kazakhstan at present.

In all other cases, relative safety of PLs with traditional horizontal crossarms with pin insulators and "dovetail" arms can be ensured through the use of polymer bird protection devices (BPD), isolating small (50– 100 cm) sections of current-carrying wires in the place of their attachment to insulators on the crossarms. In the last decade, the practice of using isolating BPDs in Kazakhstan is becoming more and more widespread. However, according to our observations, the share of ornithocidal PLs not equipped with BPDs is still very high, and the real effectiveness of BPDs strongly depends on the quality of the products used and strict compliance with technical requirements for their selection and installation.

Thus, in Kazakhstan in recent years there has been obvious progress in solving at the technical level the problem of mass death of birds in PL from electrocution, but the measures taken are not yet sufficient for the comprehensive solution of this problem. It is obvious that for a wider and faster introduction of advanced technologies in this area it is necessary to promptly adjust the existing regulatory framework.