As South African and foreign companies move quickly to develop wind power and other “green” energy projects, a new atlas has been drawn up in a bid to reduce the number of birds killed by the spinning blades of wind turbines.
The atlas of sensitive bird areas has been drawn up by bird experts from the Endangered Wildlife Trust and Birdlife International.
The two conservation groups said they recognised that wind energy posed lesser environmental risks than coal-fired power stations – yet wind turbines still posed “serious risks” for several bird species.
They are urging companies to learn from the experience in other countries and try to locate new SA wind farms in areas where bird collisions can be reduced.
Research in many parts of the world showed large numbers of bird deaths around some wind-energy farms, especially those close to bird migration routes. For example, more than 1 500 European Griffons had been killed in 18 months after collisions with turbines at a wind farm at Tarifa in Spain.
According to Durban bird expert David Allan, between 35 000 and 100 000 birds had been killed around the Altamont Pass in California in the US over the past two decades.
At a recent presentation on birds and wind farms, Allan noted that the diameter of wind turbine blades was getting progressively bigger. During the 1980s, rotor diameters were around 15m, yet many rotor diameters were now between 80m and 124m, he said.
The atlas and supporting documents can be downloaded from: http://www.birdlife.org. za/conservation/birds-and- wind-energy/windmap