Wind Turbines in Israel Kill Many More Birds, Bats Than Expected

The impact of wind turbines on birds and bats exceeds tolerable levels recommended by nature authorities, and there is currently no solution to the problem

Falcon killed by wind turbine in Israel
Hedy Ben Eliahou, Nature and Parks Authority

Wind turbines cause significant damage to bird and bat life in Israel, beyond the level deemed tolerable by nature authorities. The Parks and Nature Authorityy is mulling measures it will ask turbine owners to employ in order to reduce the damage.

Leaving aside 25—year old wind farm in the Golan Heights, there are two more modern wind turbine installations near Maaleh Gilboa and Ramat Sirin in northern Israel, which generate electricity. They are run by the Afcon business group in collaboration with local communities.

The turbine operators committed to monitoring the extent of harm to birds and bats from collision with the turbine blades, in cooperation with the Parks and Nature Authority The damage that ecologists observed, through foot patrols from July 2016 to July 2017, was worse than expected, they said last week in an interim report. At the next stage, dogs will be used to improve detection of wounded animals.

Beyond counting carcasses, the ecologists estimated the number of creatures hurt by each turbine over a year, factoring in "missing" carcasses due to predation and estimating the number of birds and bats that were struck but fell further away.

The trackers found that the average number of bird strikes per year for a single turbine was 23 at Gilboa and 17 at Sirin, and the average number of bat strikes was nine at Gilboa and seven at Sirin.

Injured birds include white storks, common kestrels and owls. Bat species found included the naked-rumped tomb bat and Kuhls pipistrelle, which are insect-eaters.

Bats killed by wind turbines include tiny insectivores.
Miriam Freund / Nature and Parks Authority

These values verge on, or exceed, maximal levels for impact to birds and bats under the Parks and Nature Authoritys policy, says the monitoring report. These threshold levels are 14 birds and 10 bats per year. The figures indicate significant impact that could affect the stability of various bird and bat populations in the area, particularly for endangered species.

Our estimates are very conservative. The impact could actually be much greater, says avian ecologist Ohad Hatzofeh, who works with the Parks authority. Not all the victims belong to endangered species, but many do in the case of the bats, he said.

Hatzofeh stresses that the figures are not final and that a more extensive survey with tracker dogs remains to be done. The authority will then analyze the data and decide whether to ask the turbine operators to take steps that could reduce the impact on the animals, such as shutting down the turbines when the wind speed is low, which is when bats are more active, and less electricity can be generated anyway.

Afcon commented that it carries out monitoring in keeping with the agreement, and will continue to operate as required.

A bat killed by a wind turbine in Israel.
Miriam Freund, National Parks and Nature Authority

Last Sunday, the Parks and Nature Authority and the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, together with four zoos that are involved in an eagle-breeding program, began a public campaign against the plan to build a large wind turbine farm in the Golan Heights, for fear of harm to the already seriously endangered vulture population there.