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Complete implementation of mitigation hierarchy for wind farms in Turkey remains a work-in-progress in 2022. In this blog post, we will attempt to evaluate the extent and success of implementation of different elements of the hierarchy.
Wind has been playing an increasingly larger role to provide clean energy and the sector has been on a trend of expansion for a while. On the other hand, only a fraction of wind farms incorporates biodiversity impact management into the project. IFC and EBRD is requiring/encouraging new projects to implement “no net loss / net gain” policy. According to this policy, the construction and operation of the wind farm causes biodiversity impact, which should be avoided, minimised and even compensated for via a Mitigation Hierarchy.
The impact of a project on biodiversity impact should be considered from the very beginning. Avoiding ecologically important zones such as bottleneck sites where migratory birds concentrate, or ecologically productive habitats, such as mature forests and wetlands is a great first step. At this point in time, Turkish wind farm development mostly avoided protected areas, but biodiversity evaluation has not been incorporated as a factor during site choice. On the other side, avoidance at local scale, such as changing the sitting of the turbines to conserve biodiversity features, is rarely practiced in Turkey.
Next, the residual impact that remains after avoidance measures can be minimised through regulation of turbine activity, while keeping energy production loss minimal. At sites where migratory activity is high, a “Shut-down on Demand” protocol can be implemented with an experienced observer who might pause the turbines if risky bird passage is occurring. At sites with high levels of bat mortality, “Turbine Curtailment” might be implemented, where bat detectors and software is utilized to pause the turbines during high bat activity. Reliable and high-quality research help to determine the parameters for the software to pause the turbines such as air temperature, wind speed, season and time of the night. Currently there are a handful of wind farms in Turkey that regulate turbine activity to minimise their biodiversity impact.
Restoration is regularly implemented but is limited to the protection of soil and plant cover and with mixed success. In most sites flowering plants are translocated however they often do not survive after the first couple of years.
The fourth step of the mitigation hierarchy is offset. As for offset, we could confidently say it is largely unheard of in Turkey. A misconception exists if the development involves loss of forest habitat. Department of forestry collects forest clearance fees to permit development, which to project owner sounds like a direct offset of their development elsewhere by creation of new habitat, but unfortunately does not. The offset for development in forest habitats is a major practical challenge, since the concurrent forest management plans aim for high wood yield and are not flexible to offer companies an option to fulfil their offset needs.
The current status of mitigation hierarchy implementation at wind farms in Turkey remains a mixed bag, with plenty of potential for improvement and some major actors stepping in the right direction. It appears that successfully achieving “No net loss / net gain” will become increasingly more important for projects in the coming years. Three points stand out for better implementation:
- Getting in the habit of obtaining robust baseline studies at the inception stage of the project, especially for site choice, to better avoid ecologically important and productive sites,
- Make better use of the extensive know-how to create minimisation and restoration strategies for existing projects,
- Getting informed about what offset is and what it might look like for a project site.