Energy generation around the world is shifting towards renewable sources in response to the climate emergency. The aim is that future energy will be clean, green and sustainable. Many developing countries are also simultaneously trying to increase energy security and expand energy access to rapidly growing populations. Wind energy is playing a leading role in delivering these objectives.
In South Africa there are at least 23 fully operational wind farms producing almost 2 gigawatts, and several more are about to come online. The country aims to produce around 14.4 gigawatts a year from wind by 2030, which would be around 20% of the country’s energy demand. This is good news in the battle to reduce carbon emissions and ensure a more consistent power supply. But these developments can have other less positive impacts which also need to be addressed.
One of these impacts is that wind turbines can kill birds when they collide with the moving blades. This problem is known worldwide, and some types of bird are more vulnerable to this threat than others. Birds of prey, such as eagles, buzzards and vultures, use the same wind resources that turbines need to operate. These large soaring birds use the wind to help power their own flight, using updraughts and thermals to gain height. This can make them particularly vulnerable to collisions with wind turbine blades, which can travel at speeds of up to 290km/hour and either eagles don’t see them or don’t perceive them as a threat until it is too late. MORE
Header image: Verreaux’s Black Eagle flying high. Credit: Author supplied/Megan Murgatroyd.