A recent announcement by Egypt’s Environment Ministry declared that it has successfully concluded, jointly with the Egyptian government’s New and Renewable Energy Authority (NREA), its annual programme to protect migratory soaring birds at Gabal al-Zayt Wind Farm west of the Gulf of Suez.
The 200 MW wind farm which has been in operation since 2015 is located on the western coast of the Gulf of Suez, a region with some of the best wind regimes in the world, and is one of Egypt’s significant projects to produce renewable energy. Gabal al-Zayt region is also part of the Red Sea/Rift Valley flyway, through which hundreds of thousands of soaring birds are funnelled during both spring and autumn migration periods.
In 2016 STRIX, a consultancy providing environmental, social, and sustainability consulting services, started to operate a Radar Assisted Turbine Shutdown on Demand, and bird migration monitoring programme at Gabal al Zayt Wind Farm for Siemens GAMESA and NREA. The purpose was to mitigate migratory soaring bird mortality at the site. Additionally, the programme aimed at providing post-construction monitoring of spring soaring bird migration. It comprised radar and visual surveillance from vantage points around the wind farm by experienced observers.
During the first two years of the programme, nearly 400,000 birds from 41 species were recorded in the study area, and 20 of the species, including Great White Pelican Pelecanus onocrotalus, Steppe Eagle Aquila nipalensis, Crested Honey Buzzard Pernis ptilorhynchus, White Stork Ciconia ciconia, Levant Sparrowhawk Accipiter brevipes, Black Stork Ciconia nigra and Black Kite Milvus migrans, were recorded in internationally important numbers (more than 1 per cent of their flyway population), further emphasising the global importance of this site.
Since its implementation, shut down on demand program has been very successful. Shutdown operations, namely the response time, performed generally well and the total equivalent shutdown period for the whole Spring season in 2016 was only residual (less than four hours).
The successful implementation of temporary shutdown of turbines to mitigate bird mortality due to collision at the Gabal el Zayt Wind Farm is a project of unparalleled importance in the context of the conflict between wind energy and birds, due to the size and extension of the wind farm but particularly to the number of birds that migrate through the area.
4 June 2018