EWT & BLSA POSITION STATEMENT ON WIND ENERGY FACILITIES
Posted on the 30th May 2011
The environmental impacts of the wind energy industry in South Africa remain largely unknown as the existing small installations on the West Coast have not provided any useful data. In the absence of data and scientific certainty it is internationally accepted that the precautionary principle should be applied in environmental assessments. All renewable energy projects should be subject to the same rigorous environmental assessments as any other project.
Some excerpts from the “EWT and BirdLife Position Statement on Avifaunal and Bat Impact Assessment for Wind Energy Facilities in South Africa” state:
That they support the responsible development of a renewable energy industry in South Africa. The need for a cleaner, more diverse energy mix is acknowledged as is the predicted imminent shortfall of energy supply versus demand.
There are however aspects of the avifaunal and bat impact assessment process for projects to date that are expressly not in the interests of sustainable development. We are of the opinion that this process has so far been inadequate in several ways and can fairly easily be improved on future projects to bring it in line with internationally accepted best‐practice.
The following conditions are essential for adequate precautionary assessments and environmental authorizations:
The avifaunal and bat impact assessment schedule must allow for the collection of adequate relevant field data to support an appropriate decision on whether and how each project should proceed. The absence of data should no longer be interpreted to mean the absence of impacts. To this end, an initial information baseline (obtained through a pre‐construction monitoring programme extended over a minimum of 12 months) is required for all proposed Wind Energy Facilities. A 12 month period is necessary in order to provide an opportunity to cover the various forms of variation which we experience in our arid and semi arid environment, and is in line with international best practice.
Bird and bat monitoring protocols for all proposed Wind Energy Facilities should conform with those laid out in the “EWT‐BLSA Best Practice Guidelines for Avian Monitoring and Impact Mitigation at proposed WEF sites in South Africa” and the “South African Good Practice Guidelines for Surveying Bats in Wind Farm developments 2011”
Environmental authorizations should not be issued in the absence of finalized turbine and associated infrastructure positions. Adequate impact assessment requires the location of the proposed activities to be explicit, particularly with regard to Wind Energy Facilities, where impacts are extremely site specific.
All Wind Energy Facility applications should be subject to the full avifaunal and bat impact assessment process as detailed in the above mentioned EWT‐BLSA guidelines.
The EWT and BLSA are approaching the interaction between birds and bats, and wind energy proactively through the development of the above guidelines, and the development of an “avian wind energy sensitivity map”, which will become available during 2011
While we understand that there are modest cost implications of advance baseline monitoring, we emphasize that in order to be sustainable wind energy should not be a significant additive factor which tips threatened bird and bat species towards extinction.
The guidelines are available directly from EWT through the following links: