A wind turbine in the Golan Heights.
A wind turbine in the Golan Heights. Photo by Yaron Kaminsky
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Green movements around the world consider use of wind power to produce electricity a viable way to reduce dependence on pollutant fuels. But the Israel Nature and Parks Authority has come out against a plan to establish wind turbine farms, claiming that a large number of birds and bats could die as a result of these winds stations.

The National Planning and Building Council is due to authorize a policy paper on Tuesday drafted by the Interior Ministry that calls for the establishment of stations to produce electricity on a scale of 800 megawatts by using wind power. The establishment of these stations would mean that wind power would account for 3 percent of the country's electricity use within a decade. In order to bring this position paper to life, the council is expected to endorse a proposal to prepare a national design plan stipulating where these stations would be built.

The policy paper says that most electricity to be produced by wind power would come from large turbine farms to be established in open spaces. Each turbine would be between 18 and 100 meters in height.

Today there are already some initiatives to create large turbine stations on the Golan Heights and the Gilboa region. A small wind farm currently operates on the Golan Heights.

Ecologists affiliated with the Nature and Parks Authority oppose the wind stations, believing that they will harm birds and bats. The environmentalists argue that the country should wait for the development of new types of wind turbines that are liable to cause less damage to birds.

This opposition paper relies on extensive review of damage caused to birds and bats in parts of the world where wind stations operate. One study conducted in the United States shows that 78 percent of birds who died around turbines belong to protected species. In Spain, tens or hundreds of eagles die each year in regions where wind stations operate.

In some areas, annual injury rates to birds are extremely low. The key factor appears to be the location of the wind stations and birds' flight patterns. Israel is located on one of the world's most important bird migratory routes, and many of the areas earmarked for wind farms are located on these routes.

Nature and Parks Authority head Shaul Goldstein said: "We are committed to the cabinet's decision to generate power from wind energy, but also to protect birds' migration course.

"This is why we believe that, if a wind turbine farm is set up, it must be done gradually, while monitoring the effect on birds," he added. "It also requires gathering accurate information about the height of the migrating birds' flight."

The authority's opposition paper also notes that if wind stations are spread out, they are liable to cause less harm to birds and the authority would therefore not object to the building of isolated turbines. The problem, it insists, occurs when turbines are packed together.