A study to assess the impact of wind power plants on birds and bats within the framework of the GEF/UNDP international technical assistance project "Removing Barriers to Wind Power Development in the Republic of Belarus" is implemented by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection of the Republic of Belarus and carried out by the State Research and Production Association "Scientific and Practical Center for Bioresources of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus".
Wind power is one of the fastest growing renewable energy industries in Belarus and all around the world. It is the stake when it comes to mitigating the effects of climate change by reducing carbon dioxide emissions. As with any other economic activity related to the use of natural areas, it is very important to ensure the further development of wind power in the country without tangible damage to the environment. Due to the lack of unified approaches to monitoring and assessing the impact of wind farms on animals, today there are two fundamentally opposite points of view on this matter: some argue that wind turbines are completely harmless, others insist that the impact is negative.
Why is the current research in Belarus important? When assessing the impact of wind turbines on the avifauna and bats, experts usually rely on American and European publications, which are often based on scattered or generalized facts of bird deaths in different periods and in different regions, including on different continents, without taking into account differences in composition of fauna, types of wind turbines, lighting of wind generators and site layouts, meteorological aspects, and so on, which cannot fully correspond to the conditions in our country.
With the analyzes of international approaches to monitoring the impact of wind farms on birds and bats, as well as their own results and experience within framework of large international projects, Belarusian ornithologists have developed their own algorithms for the study. Ornithologists take into account each of the four types of impact for all species found in a certain area where the wind farm is planned to be located or is already operating: collision risk, barrier effect, disturbance and displacement, habitat degradation.
During field observations of birds, scientists compile databases, maps, reports, which will become the basis not only for assessing the risks of collision of birds with installations, but also allow assessing how these objects affect the change in habitats and lifestyle of avifauna. Experts note that recording only dead birds is insufficient. Field research also includes:
- study of the species and number of birds that can change their habitats as a result of the construction of wind farms, as well as the significance of this for the bird populations in the region under study as a whole;
- levels of flight activity and flight behavior that can be used in assessing collision risks;
- special attention is paid to protected species.
As a result of the scientific research, an assessment of the state and level of impact on birds and bats will be given for model sites of wind farms, not just at the design stage, but during their operation, which was not previously carried out in Belarus. Ornithologists will also develop approaches for organizing further monitoring based on methods for tracking ongoing changes, adapted to our conditions. Based on a full-scale study, scientists will draw up recommendations on minimizing the impact of wind farms on key groups of animals, taking into account the benefits for the development of environmentally friendly types of energy production in the country and the environmental aspect.
Code in external DB source: 1465