In March 2009, the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) announced the Renewable Energy Feed-in Tariff (REFIT) Guidelines. These guidelines were subsequently replaced with the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer (REIPP) Programme, which created a more competitive environment where developers now have to submit tenders and bid to have their developments selected. The REIPP Programme will consist of a maximum five bidding rounds approximately every 4-5 months. Overall 3 725 MW of renewables capacity will be allocated in investments of around R100-billion between 2012 and 2016. Of this allocation wind power will be limited to 1850MW wind, of which approximately 800MW has been allocated to successful bids as of mid 2012. With an average turbine size of around 2.5MW, this equates to about 350 turbines which will be built around South Africa in the very near future.
The merits of renewable energy as opposed to traditional fossil fuel based energy production are well understood, however stringent assessment of the impact of renewable energy projects is as important for wind energy as other developments. Renewable energy projects (including wind energy) have the potential to impact negatively on the receiving environment if not properly planned and sited. This is particularly true of the impact of wind energy on birds. Some of these impacts are very specific and unique to wind farms and require equally specific assessment in order to calculate the predicted impacts and quantify the risks. Locally, only seven operational individual wind turbines exist in SA, far too few to provide any meaningful data on the actual interactions of birds with wind farms. This means that new proposed projects are assessed in the absence of any real local data or experience.
The Wildlife & Energy Programme is at the forefront of wind farm interactions with birds and bats in South Africa. Drawing on international experience and knowledge, we have been involved in numerous avifaunal studies for wind energy facilities across the country. We have partnered with BirdLife South Africa to address the potential impacts of our rapidly growing wind energy industry on our birds in South Africa - Position Statement.
Our joint approach includes:
- engaging with the wind energy developers;
- facilitating the development of best practice guidelines for preconstruction assessment of wind energy impacts on birds;
- and the development of an Avifaunal Wind Sensitivity map.html for South Africa.
The EWT-WEP has recently set up 12 month pre-construction monitoring programmes on six different wind farm sites, and manages these projects, along with analysing the data collected and reporting back to the client. We believe we are industry leaders when it comes to this type of pioneering work in South Africa. With the construction of numerous Wind Farms imminent, there will soon be a need for well planned and robust mortality monitoring of WEF’s once operational. WEP is well positioned to lead the way in this field, and are currently developing protocols and investigating the use of dogs, to effectively monitor sites for bird and bat mortalities.