In South Africa, BioTherm Energy’s Excelsior Wind farm is collaborating with conservation organizations to minimize the wind industry’s impact on local bird populations (avifauna).
The 33-MW Excelsior Wind farm is constructed on 2,300 hectares in Swellendam, an area known as one of the largest agricultural-producing areas in the country and home to many species of birds.
To avoid losses, the on-site mitigation program includes an industry-first implementation of an observer-led Shut Down on Demand (SDOD) system for priority species.
The program not only studies how to mitigate the potential impact of the wind farm on birds but also aims to grow priority species, including Cape vulture, black harrier, Verreaux’s eagle and martial eagle.
The SDOD system is implemented through notification by a team of bird monitors stationed in the wind farm’s on-site operations room, where individual wind turbines are switched off when the priority species is in the vicinity and switched on again once the bird has passed by.
“This direct mitigation through shutdowns has resulted in zero loss of priority species to date, meaning that we can proudly say that there have been no turbine collision fatalities so far, and we expect the same into the future,” said Libby Hirshon, BioTherm Energy’s sustainability director.
Additionally, the program provides local job creation. The eight biodiversity monitors, who are predominately female, have been recruited from the surrounding communities. The team of monitors are sited at three vantage points, seven days a week, and are responsible for the implementation of this rigorous program through active communication with the operators.
BioTherm Energy recognizes that in the Overberg region, where the Excelsior Wind Energy Facility is situated, many bird species are also susceptible to powerline collisions, which has been well-documented by the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT). This poses a significantly greater threat to certain species than wind turbines, including South Africa’s