A robotic falcon called Brian is keeping a beady eye over a new solar array at At-Bristol. The mechanical falcon has been charged with keeping seagulls away from the 50kWp installation, to stop them from fouling the surface of the panels. Bird droppings can significantly reduce the efficiency of solar panels and Bristol’s coastal location means that local seagulls nesting on rooftops present a real problem for the city. The electronic peregrine falcon scares away unwanted gulls humanely by flapping his wings and emitting authentic calls.

The 208 photovoltaic panels were installed on the science discovery centre’s roof by local installers, Solarsense. It is estimated that the PV system will produce in excess of 47,000kWh of electricity a year, enough to provide about 20 percent of the science centre’s annual demand.

The system was commissioned with the support of a grant from EDF Energy’s Green Fund and is expected to slash the science centre’s carbon footprint by over 25 tonnes a year.

Natasha Block, Commercial Project Manager for Solarsense, said: “The new PV system will not only save carbon emissions, cut energy bills and generate income for At-Bristol but will also help it promote the tremendous benefits of renewable energy for the wider community and the environment.

“Schoolchildren and other visitors will be able to see how much electricity is being generated and carbon saved for the weather conditions, via a live display in the main entrance linked to the system and a weather station that we’re also installing,” she added.

At-Bristol’s Estates Director, Mike Rippon said: “Sustainability is part of our educational mission and PV is yet another way to reduce our own carbon footprint and teach visitors about sustainability. As a charity with limited finances this investment makes a lot of sense for us.”

However, it is Brian the falcon that is rapidly becoming a local celebrity thanks to his seagull-scaring antics and a string of humorous tweets from his twitter account, @brianrobofalcon. Highlights include: “To the flock of gulls approaching my green roof from the South East, range 200 meters. In the words of Gandalf the Grey: ‘You shall not pass!’” and “I believe it was Spiderman who once said: “With great [photovoltaic solar] power comes great [seagull deterring] responsibility. I am ready.”

Brian has even been interviewed by the centre’s staff, during which he revealed why his job is so important: “Solar panels are expensive and sensitive pieces of equipment, so you don't want seagulls damaging them, but most importantly for every bird dropping on a panel this means less sunlight getting through and so less electricity is generated [ruffles feathers].”