To address the shortage of power in India, wind energy is increasingly harnessed as an alternate and renewable energy source. There is a rapid increase in the number of wind farms at suitable sites all over the country. Some of the key sites with optimal wind velocities are the plateaus on the Western Ghats - a global hotspot of biological diversity. The rocky plateaus on the Western Ghats are terrestrial habitat islands facing extreme micro-environmental conditions; however, scanty information is available on the ecology of these plateaus. We undertook a two-year study to assess the impact of wind farms on birds. We also documented the avian diversity at Bhambarwadi Plateau, northern Western Ghats, India. To the best of our knowledge this is the first such study in India. We recorded 89 avian species on the plateau, 27 of which flew in the risk area swept by the rotor blades, and hence are potentially at risk of collision. The collision index (the number of bird collisions with wind turbines over a period of one year assuming that the birds do not take any avoidance measure) for these species were estimated. We also identified species at risk from collision with transformers and wind-masts, and at risk from electrocution. Reduction in avian activity in the study area was evident with progress of wind farm erection. Despite the small footprint of an individual wind turbine, the associated infrastructure development causes wider habitat modification and destruction resulting in a displacement effect. Therefore, wind farm erections in strategic locations such as biodiversity hotspots should be subject to prior site based strategic environmental assessments (SEA) as well as environmental impact assessment (EIA) studies.
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