Recognition for demonstrating leadership in the biodiversity sphere

BTE Renewables has been recognised by South Africa’s wind industry for the leading role that it has forged in the area of biodiversity and conservation.

The company was recently awarded the industry’s Environmental Stewardship Award, which is designed to honour Independent Power Producers in South Africa’s wind energy space that demonstrate a commitment to sustainable energy and exemplify environmental stewardship. This award is an acknowledgment of the company’s dedication to sustainable energy, through its protection of the natural environment, having undertaken impactful and tangible conservation efforts and introduced sustainable practices.

“We strive to demonstrate leadership in biodiversity, with particular emphasis on conservation programmes and partnerships with bird specialists and NGOs in programme implementation. This award specifically recognised the implementation of the Observer-Led Shut Down on Demand (SDOD) Programme at our Excelsior Wind Energy Facility, near Swellendam. This programme has been operational for close on two years, hence BTE Renewables can now provide sufficient data to
show that if implemented correctly, significant impacts on priority species can be avoided. BTE Renewables was recognized for being a leader in this respect, and an inspiration for others in the industry,” said Libby Hirshon, Sustainability Director, BTE Renewables.

The programme has become an example to the industry of a truly effective mitigation against bird turbine collisions, and BTE Renewables has provided information and guidance to other IPPs. Additionally, the wind farm has hosted a number of visitors including the Birds and Renewable Energy Specialist Group (BARESG) of BirdLife South Africa, so that others can learn about the programme in order to implement it in future.

A team of 11 full-time bird monitors have been recruited to run the programme at Excelsior Wind Energy Facility, with the Lead Biodiversity Supervisor, who hails from the local community, managing the team (5 males and 5 females) who are also locally recruited, to run the programme.

Three vantage points were constructed to allow for the team to adequately observe the entire wind farm and identify any priority species in the area. They now work in shifts seven days a week and over holidays, ensuring that there are no days where the wind farm is left unmanned.

In 2019, a Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) was developed to ensure that the project did not have negative impacts on the population of the Cape Vulture, Black Harrier, Renosterveld, Agulhas Long Billed Lark and Blue Crane, amongst other priority species. The aim of the plan is to achieve not only no net loss of these species, but also a net gain. The SDOD programme is the most important on-site aspect of the commitment to no net loss, alongside a carcass clearing programme to avoid attracting
vultures to the area.

“As the wind energy industry in South Africa continues to grow, so does the potential for significant impact on at-risk avifauna. Hence, we are incredibly proud of this programme, which has been running for over a year at our Kipeto Project in Kenya, and is in pilot phase at our Golden Valley Wind Energy Facility in the Eastern Cape,” explained Hirshon.

In conclusion, she added, “This programme is the first of the kind in the world. We took a risk in implementing it, as we believed that, with proper investment and good implementation, it could be a highly effective mitigation programme, with the added benefit of employment creation and skills development in our local communities.”


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