Wind Turbines in Southern Israel Would Hurt Bird Migration, Environmentalists Say

The bird migration route through Israel is the second most-important in the world.

Flamingo at Eilat's salt pools, not far from location of planned turbines.
Noa Wiess / Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI)

A company producing electricity from wind-power seeks to install giant turbines in the Eilat area, which environmentalists fear endanger the important international bird migration route in the area.

Last week Israel joined an international agreement protecting birds of prey in Europe, Asia and Africa. The agreement, signed in Bonn, Germany, recommends not erecting wind turbines on migration routes because the birds fly into the turbines and are injured or killed by the blades.

The bird migration route through Israel is the second most-important in the world.

Last week Eilot Wind company submitted to the Southern District Planning and Building Committee a proposal to install 13 wind turbines built by Siemens in an area north of Eilat. The 180-meter-high turbines, with 13-meter-long blades, would be placed one kilometer apart and produce 42 megawatts of electricity.

The Environmental Protection Ministry’s representative on the zoning committee said the region’s ecology and landscape were sensitive and expressed concern that birds flying in the area would be harmed. Representatives from the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel said the project threatened an important avian migration route.

One of the energycompany’s ecological advisors said that turbines have been built near bird migration routes in other places, and that the proposed field of turbines would not be a wide barrier that could endanger birds.

He said surveys of migrating birds in the area should be held to assess the danger.

In a statement, the committee said the project is not likely to go ahead, in light of the apparent environmental sensitivity of the region, adding that a study of the impact on the area’s ecology in general and on bird migration in particularly would have to be done before approval could be granted for the turbine project.

“Wind turbines have been proved to be fatal to large numbers of birds and bats, in countless studies conducted in recent years, especially in areas through which many birds pass,” Noam Weiss, director of Eilat’s Birding Center and an SPNI representative on the zoning committee, said after the meeting.

“The birds are hurt either physically, or by the creation of a vacuum vortex that causes the birds’ or bats’ lungs to explode even if they fly close to the turbines,” Weiss said.

“Hundreds of thousands of birds of prey pass through the region in question, which constitutes a place of rest and stay over for them. I have no doubt that if this plan advances, international environmental groups will join our struggle,” he added.

Eilot Wind said in a response that the company is developing clean energy projects in keeping with the government’s policy and in view of the great potential for such projects in Israel.