The need for cleaner energy has resulted in a burgeoning renewable energy industry in South Africa. At BirdLife South Africa we acknowledge the predicted shortfall of evergy supply versus demand. We also recognise the need to include more renewable energy in our energy mix if the threat of climate change is to be reduced. BirdLife South Africa therefore supports the responsible development of a renewable energy industry in South Africa.
Unfortunately, if poorly planned, renewable energy facilities can have negative impacts on birds and the environment. BirdLife South Africa is helping to minimise these impacts.
BirdLife South Africa's work on Birds and Renewable Energy is funded by Investec Corporate and Institutional Banking.
Poorly located wind turbines can cause three major problems for birds:
- Disturbance by scaring birds away from their roosting, nesting or feeding sites,
- Displacement through loss or damage to bird habitat, and
- Mortality as a result of collisions with turbine blades or towers.
BirdLife South Africa urges the budding wind energy industry to develop in an environmentally responsible manner. We encourage and support wind developers to:
- Locate wind farms in areas where conflicts with birds can be minimised,
- Adequately assess and mitigate the potential impacts on birds,
- Monitor and report the acctual impacts on birds (and, if necessary, implement additional mitigation).
The considered location of a wind farm is critical if the benefits of wind energy are to be maximised and the impacts on birds minimised. BirdLife South Africa and the Endangered WildLife Trust (EWT)'s Avian Wind Farm Sensitivity Map gives an indication of the geographic areas in South Africa where the establishment of wind farms is likely to have a negative impact on birds. This map is not intended as a decision-making tool and it does not replace the need for detailed impact assessment, but it can help screen possible locations for wind farms.
BirdLife South Africa seeks to proactively avoid conflict between wind energy and birds. By using available information (including the Sensitivity Map) we can help developers screen sites for any obvious red flags to development.
2. Impact Assessment
Minimising the potential impacts of wind energy on birds requires objective, structured and scientifically rigorous impact assessment by an avifaunal specialist. BirdLife South Africa and EWT's Minimum Requirements for Avifaunal Impact Assessment for Wind Energy Facilities set the minimum requirements for impact assessment and help guide the scope of the specialist study.
The requirement are in line with international best practice and are closely linked to the Best Practice Guidelines for Avian Monitoring and Impact Mitigation.
To accommodate the significant seasonal variance in the presence and behaviour of some species, data should be collected over all four seasons. The length of each site visit should be informed by the sensitivity of the avifauna and the size of the development. BirdLife South Africa encourages developers and project managers to make time and financial provision for this.
It is important that impact assessments consider the potential cumulative impacts on avifauna. BirdLife South Africa can assist by giving an indication of what other developments have been proposed in the area.
Pre and post-construction monitoring of birds at wind farms is essential to
- Document and compare the predicted versus the actual impact of the facility,
- Identify if additional mitigation is required to reduce the impacts, and
- Facilitate an improved understanding of the impacts of wind energy on birds at a broader level and inform more accurate impact assessments and sensitivity maps in the future.
BirdLife South Africa and EWT's Best Practice Guidelines for Avian Monitoring and Impact Mitigation are intended to bring this monitoring in line with internationally accepted best practice and promote a consistent approach across projects. These guidelines have been endorsed by the South African Wind Energy Association, Eskom and CapeNature.
BirdLife South Africa can assist by reviewing proposed monitoring methodologies and avifaunal reports to ensure that they are in line with the Best Practice Guidelines.
To maximise the benefits of monitoring, BirdLife South Africa is developing a library of monitoring reports and associated data. This information will be used to improve our understanding of the impacts and issues at a broader scale. Developers can help the wind industry develop in a sustainable way by ensuring all relevant monitoring information is sent to BirdLife South Africa for further analysis.
Choosing the right avifaunal specialist
BirdLife South Africa encourages the use of experienced avifaunal specialists who have agreed to conduct their work in accordance with the Best Practice Guidelines.
Download the list of these specialists and their qualifications pdf Specialists 2015 (53 KB)
Inclusion in this list does not constitute endorsement of the listed avifaunal specialists by either BirdLife South Africa or The Endangered Wildlife Trust. Neither BirdLife South Africa nor The Endangered Wildlife Trust shall be held responsible for the quality of work done by listed avifaunal specialists, nor shall they be held responsible for any losses or damages arising out of the recommendations of any listed avifaunal specialist.
Any wind energy site developer, intending to employ one of the listed avifaunal specialists, carries the responsibility of performing background checks to satisfy themselves as to the qualifications and experience of the particular avifaunal specialist. Any company or individual employs any of the listed avifaunal specialists at their own risk.
BirdLife South Africa recognises the benefits of photovoltaic and concentrated solar power, however these facilities can cause the displacement or exclusion from important habitats of nationally and/or globally threatened, rare, endemic or range-restricted bird species. Other risks include collision with the reflective surfaces. The introduction of this technology could result in a rapid alteration of large areas of habitat, which represents a potentially new threat to species.
To help manage these risks, BirdLife South Africa has drawn up Guidelines to Minimise the Impact on Birds of Solar Facilities and Associated Infrastructure in South Africa. We also recommend that an avifaunal specialist be consulted for all proposed solar energy facilities.
For more information, please contact Samantha Ralston at BirdLife South Africa
Cellphone: +27 (0)83 673 3948
Fax: +27 (0)11 789 5188
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