Conservation

HELPING ENSURE THAT FEATHERS DO NOT FLY AT WIND FARMS

Posted on the 24th August 2015

Johannesburg, 21 August 2015:
BirdLife South Africa and the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) are working towards a brighter, more sustainable future by supporting the wind energy industry to minimise its impacts on birds and their habitats.

There are many reasons to welcome the increasing use of renewable energy to generate electricity in South Africa. One reason is the reduction in carbon emissions, an important part of environmental sustainability, yet there are many other factors to consider if energy generation is to be truly sustainable.

One challenge that must be overcome is wind energy’s potential effects on birds. Some birds collide with wind turbines, while others can be displaced and disturbed during the construction and operation of wind farms. Many of the species most vulnerable to these effects, for example vultures and many raptors, are also species of conservation concern.

BirdLife South Africa and the EWT are therefore proud to announce the release of third edition of their Best Practice Guidelines for Avian Monitoring and Impact Mitigation at Wind Energy Development Sites. First released in 2011, these guidelines guide the nature and scope of impact assessment and monitoring of birds at wind farms. The guidelines help ensure that the impacts of proposed wind farms on birds are rigorously assessed, so that the impacts can be avoided, or where they cannot be avoided altogether, are minimized. They also set a framework for monitoring the impacts of operational wind farms, allowing us learn and improve how things are managed going forward. The third edition of the Guidelines responded to feedback from stakeholders and provides more detail on how to monitor the effects on birds once a wind farm is operational (i.e. post-construction).

“The Best Practice Guidelines for Birds and Wind Energy are intended to be a living document,” said Samantha Ralston-Paton, Birds and Renewable Energy Manager at BirdLife South Africa, a position sponsored by Investec Corporate and Institutional Banking. “We are still testing what works here in South Africa, and we will continue to adapt our recommendations according to the latest local and international knowledge and experience”, she added.

The Best Practice Guidelines have been internationally recognised and are listed as a key resource in “Renewable Energy Technologies and Migratory Species – Guidelines for Sustainable Deployment”, a set of guidelines endorsed by the parties to the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS).

The Guidelines have also been endorsed by industry; the South African Wind Energy Association (SAWEA) supports their implementation at all proposed wind energy developments.  “The continued development of a sustainable and environmentally sensitive wind energy industry in South Africa can only be achieved through responsible and careful development,” notes Johan van den Berg, CEO of SAWEA.

“There are some benefits to lagging behind countries with more established wind energy industries,” says Samantha Ralston-Paton. “We have been able to learn from their mistakes and in some ways we are now ahead, particularly when it comes to ensuring that monitoring of birds is done at all operational wind farms, and crucially, that the results of this work are shared so we can continually improve the way we do things” she added.

Robert Gecelter of Investec’s Power and Infrastructure team said: “Investec is pleased to be able to assist with the vital work that BirdLife South Africa does in relation to ensuring that renewable energy is sustainable when taking into account their effects on wildlife. In this way, Investec assists in a sector we are active in, even if it is not directly in deals that we are part of.”

The Guidelines are available at:
http://www.birdlife.org.za/conservation/terrestrial--‐bird--‐conservation/birds--‐and--‐renewable--‐energy


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