Mitigating the effects of Wind Farms and Power Lines
The Paris UN climate conference in December 2015 delivered a new universal climate change agreement. The new agreement is aimed at putting the world on track to a low-carbon, sustainable future that keeps a global temperature rise under 2 degrees C.
This historic agreement will incentivise actions and investment towards an increase of renewable energy globally. As with any other infrastructure developments, renewable energy and associated infrastructure such as power lines may have negative impacts on species and ecosystems particularly when deployed on a mass-scale without adequate planning in place. The risk to migratory species can be particularly significant if renewable energy installations and power lines are placed in inappropriate locations.
To avoid and minimise the effects of wind farms and power lines on birds and bats, various tools and best practices have been collected to support a sustainable deployment of renewable energy, environmental assessments and mitigation measures below.
The most important step in the planning process is the decision on the location of wind energy or power line developments that will determine the level of threat to surrounding birds and habitats. Certain locations will be more sensitive such as migration bottlenecks or other particular landscape features. Planning requires data and interpretation of data and this may require that partnerships are formed between civil society, government and developers. Engagement through partnerships, roundtables or through other informal channel are most effective when trust is established and engagement takes place early in the development process.
Baselines and pre-construction baseline monitoring plans are one of the most important pieces of work in an environmental assessment process. These inform post-construction monitoring plans and what mitigation measures need to be taken, such as technology design and ‘shut-down on demand’. Monitoring information is important to verify whether mitigation solutions are working and for estimation of cumulative impacts of different developments on a single species. Monitoring should be performed before and after construction of the wind farm in a comparable way and monitoring should be performed within the wind farm area and in one or more control areas.
There are different wind energy and power line technologies that vary in size and design which presents different types of threats to birds and other biodiversity. For example, low and medium voltage power lines are associated with electrocution and collision risks whereas high voltage power lines are associated with collision risks. There are tailored mitigation measures developed to address these that are based on the mitigation hierarchy, such as installing nests on power lines or shut down on demand for wind turbines. The success of mitigation measures is largely depended on the adequacy of baselines and monitoring approaches. Some mitigation measures may only be specific to a type of landscape feature or species. The effectiveness of a mitigation measures may also depend on the level of environmental protection a government provides in the form of legislative framework and transparency of information.
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This resource was produced as part of the Capacity Development for Flyway Conservation project generously funded by the MAVA Foundation. A capacity building workshop for BirdLife partners in the Meditterenean region took place in Portugal 2015 that contributed to the development of this page.