The impact of wind turbines on birds and bats exceeds tolerable levels recommended by nature authorities, and there is currently no solution to the problem
Zafrir Rinat Dec 20, 2017

Wind turbines cause significant damage to bird and bat life in Israel, beyond the level deemed tolerable by nature authorities. The Parks and Nature Authorityy is mulling measures it will ask turbine owners to employ in order to reduce the damage.

Leaving aside 25—year old wind farm in the Golan Heights, there are two more modern wind turbine installations near Ma’aleh Gilboa and Ramat Sirin in northern Israel, which generate electricity. They are run by the Afcon business group in collaboration with local communities.

The turbine operators committed to monitoring the extent of harm to birds and bats from collision with the turbine blades, in cooperation with the Parks and Nature Authority The damage that ecologists observed, through foot patrols from July 2016 to July 2017, was worse than expected, they said last week in an interim report. At the next stage, dogs will be used to improve detection of wounded animals.

Beyond counting carcasses, the ecologists estimated the number of creatures hurt by each turbine over a year, factoring in “missing” carcasses due to predation and estimating the number of birds and bats that were struck but fell further away.

The trackers found that the average number of bird strikes per year for a single turbine was 23 at Gilboa and 17 at Sirin, and the average number of bat strikes was nine at Gilboa and seven at Sirin.

Injured birds include white storks, common kestrels and owls. Bat species found included the naked-rumped tomb bat and Kuhl’s pipistrelle, which are insect-eaters.

“These values verge on, or exceed, maximal levels for impact to birds and bats under the Parks and Nature Authority’s policy,” says the monitoring report. “These threshold levels are 14 birds and 10 bats per year. The figures indicate significant impact that could affect the stability of various bird and bat populations in the area, particularly for endangered species.”

“Our estimates are very conservative. The impact could actually be much greater,” says avian ecologist Ohad Hatzofeh, who works with the Parks authority. Not all the victims belong to endangered species, but many do in the case of the bats, he said.

Hatzofeh stresses that the figures are not final and that a more extensive survey with tracker dogs remains to be done. The authority will then analyze the data and decide whether to ask the turbine operators to take steps that could reduce the impact on the animals, such as shutting down the turbines when the wind speed is low, which is when bats are more active, and less electricity can be generated anyway.

Afcon commented that it carries out monitoring in keeping with the agreement, and will continue to operate as required.

Last Sunday, the Parks and Nature Authority and the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, together with four zoos that are involved in an eagle-breeding program, began a public campaign against the plan to build a large wind turbine farm in the Golan Heights, for fear of harm to the already seriously endangered vulture population there.
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Tech Solution Mooted for Wind Turbines’ Threat to Golan Vultures But greens skeptical, continue to oppose alternative energy project
Zafrir Rinat Dec 11, 2017

The developers of a large wind turbine project for electricity production on the Golan Heights are proposing the use of a system that will identify oncoming birds of prey and silence the turbines as they approach to prevent harming them.

This offer is aimed at reducing the concerns of environmentalists about the possibility that birds will be hit by turbine blades. The Israel Nature and Parks Authority, however, is not convinced that this solution will prevent harm and continues to oppose the project.

Enlight Renewable Energy is advancing a large project to produce electricity from wind power, to be located near Tel Fares in the Golan Heights. The project, called Genesis Wind, was given preliminary approval six months ago by the National Infrastructures Commission and moved to the public comments stage. The plan includes dozens of turbines whose total power production capacity will be 130 megawatts. They will stand 150 meters high and occupy some 15,000 dunams (over 3,700 acres).

Environmental protection groups are vehemently opposed to the project for fear that the turbine blades will harm the Golan’s vulture population, which numbers only a few dozen birds. There is a dispute between Enlight and the INPA regarding the risk posed to the vultures, and the two sides agreed to have another evaluation conducted by a mutually agreed upon international expert.

Recently Enlight contacted a Portuguese environmental consulting firm called STRIX that produces a system called Birdtrack that shuts down turbines when birds approach. The system is already being used at two wind turbine farms in Portugal and in a similar large installation near the Red Sea in Egypt.

“It’s a system based on radar that identifies the approach of birds at a distance of up to 10 kilometers,” explained the company’s CEO, Miguel Rapas, who visited Israel last week. “In addition, an ornithologist is employed as a lookout to identify what kind of birds are approaching. In the case of the Golan Heights, we would also use information received from the GPS transmitters attached to the bodies of some Golan vultures, thus creating several layers of protection.”

Over the past few months, thousands of vultures have flown through the area of the wind turbines in Portugal where the system operates and the turbine shutdowns have so far prevented harm to the birds. Rapas says the turbines are shut down for a very short time compared to their total time of operation and that this has not impacted on the financial feasibility of the project. The system also allows for the shutdown of only some of the turbines based on data of the birds’ movement. He believes the system could work in the conditions on the Golan Heights.

“We don’t want to force this project on the ‘greens’ and prefer that it be with their agreement,” says Gilad Yaavetz, CEO of Enlight. “We are prepared for even longer shutdowns than in Portugal if that’s what’s necessary.” He said the company plans to take other steps to prevent harm to the vultures, including the regular removal of animal carcasses from the area of the project. Vultures are attracted to these carcasses and their removal will reduce the chances of them approaching the area.

INPA officials aren’t convinced the technology will work in the Golan.

“The technology in question is effective primarily in places where there is a large front of birds that approach during certain seasons of the year,” says Dr. Noam Lider, the INPA’s chief ecologist. “But in the Tel Fares area there is daily movement of vultures, which we know based on the transmitters on them. We are afraid that this will lead to lengthy shutdowns of the turbines and a loss of energy and money. Then there will be demands to reduce the shutdowns so as not to undermine the project.

“In addition, examinations we have done show that one cannot transmit real-time data on the vultures’ location through the GPS transmitters, so that won’t help either,” Lider said. “That’s why we continue to oppose the project. We believe that this method is more suited to places like the northern Negev, where most of the passage of birds is during the migration season.”
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