Wind energy 'poses risk for birds'

CONCERN over the bird population shrinking has been raised by environment lobby group Avian Wind Energy Farm Sensitivity Map.

Wind energy is part of a renewable source of energy, and is part of an emerging sector in South Africa.

Birdlife South Africa and the Wildlife Trust say the country should learn a thing or two on wind-powered energy impact on the life of birds from other countries such as Spain and the US.

According to research conducted by Eurasian Griffons, 1500 birds have collided with wind turbines in just eight months at one site.

"Wind energy generation has a lesser environmental impact than, for example, coal-fired power stations, but the wind turbines can still pose serious risks for bird species," say the two organisations.

To avert this, they designed an Avian Wind Farm Sensitivity Map that will provide guidance to the wind farm industry on the best location of wind energy facilities.

The map identifies areas for birds, which sites are threatened and or endemic birds, or birds which are known to be vulnerable to collision with wind turbines, occur.

The map was designed using a number of data sources, including the data collected during citizen science projects as well as the Southern African Bird Atlas Project.

The data was analysed using priority scores based on the conservation status of each species, in addition to various characteristics that render certain species vulnerable to collisions with wind turbines.

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