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BirdLife International | Nov 21, 2018

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UN promotes further investment in renewables – by making them wildlife friendly

At the Responsible Business Forum in Singapore in October, scientists collaborated with international business and industry leaders on solutions to maximise investment in renewables, while combating the impact of wind and solar energy and powerlines on birds and other wildlife.

In recognition of the need to massively increase wind and solar power development as planet-friendly, sustainable energy sources, the UN Convention on Migratory Species has developed an Energy Task Force. The task force will work with governments and industry to help promote an increase in renewable energy technologies that enable their expansion into wildlife friendly locations. “The Energy Task Force aims to minimise the risk of costly delays and loss of wildlife as a result of interactions with renewable infrastructure” says Dr Ashton Berry, BirdLife International’s Global Climate Change Programme Coordinator, and Coordinator of the Energy Task Force.

BirdLife International is the global authority on birds and has a network of 117 partners worldwide working to help in the development and implementation of innovative technologies that minimise the impacts of renewables through their strategic placement away from wildlife sensitive locations.

Experts estimate that hundreds of thousands of species of birds and bats in the US and Canada die every year when they inadvertently crash into turbine blades. An additional 8 to 57 million birds are killed due to the associated power lines and towers, which carry the electrical power generated by wind turbines into the grid. Furthermore, there are direct effects on natural habitats and eco-systems through land alteration and displacement from clean energy development.

The introduction of innovative sensitivity mapping tools that use the best science available to map out areas where birds would be highly sensitive to wind farms, and to locate alternative areas where wind farms would have less impact on wildlife are helping mitigate the problem. Other tools such as radar technology are already being used to sense when birds and bats are approaching the wind turbines – which then automatically shut down, and restart once the animals have passed. In South Africa a range of technologies, such as highly visible deflectors positioned every 20m on transmission lines, discourage birds from colliding with the cables.

Our tools and guidance aim to provide developers and governments in the planning stage of development with confidence that their infrastructure is as green as it can be, not only producing renewable, emission-free energy, but also allowing for the survival of our, in many instances, iconic wildlife,

says Dr Berry.

Red-headed Vulture (left) and White-rumped Vulture (right) © Bjorn Olesen

The coming together of socially and ecologically responsible businesses in Singapore provided an opportunity to discuss the issues and to develop partnerships to work on implementing sustainable solutions. “The Energy Task Force is about developing approaches that not only mitigate the impact of poorly placed renewables on birds and other wildlife, but presenting / offering solutions that are cost effective and promote investment”, says Sue Mulhall, Corporate Engagement Manager at BirdLife International.

The Responsible Business Forum provides the perfect setting for businesses from many and varied sectors to discuss the latest science and technology advances, and how these can be incorporated into the long-term sustainability of their businesses and the services that they provide.

“We hope to build upon our successes and engage even further with industry. We all have the same goals: to advance the global development of renewable energy, and to build even further upon its green image. Our goal is even greener sustainable energy for all, by ensuring renewables are wildlife friendly”, says Dr Berry. 

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