Djibouti, located in the Horn of Africa, is endowed with abundant wind resources yet it is not self-sufficient in electric power supply. The country is also located in the 2nd most important Migratory Soaring Birds (MSBs) flight corridor in the world – the Rift Valley/Red Sea migratory corridor, used by an estimated 1.5 million MSBs as they move in their seasonal and cyclic journeys between Africa and Eurasia. The corridor, however, present some of the best opportunities for wind power generation and has therefore attracted deployment of multiple windfarms putting migratory birds and the power parks into direct conflict.
This calls for careful design and implementation of mitigation strategies to ensure minimal or no casualties from the vulnerable species. A case in point is the Gabal-el Zayt wind farm where the wind farm, with BirdLife’s support, has adopted the Shut Down on Demand (SHOD) strategy. In 2016, following implementation of shutdowns (n=47; average duration=25min; 13.4 turbines per request) at the farm, only 9 (0.003%) birds out of 300,000 flying through the wind farm died from collisions, with negligible power losses. Subsequent implementation of SHOD has been highly successful with only two White Storks observed colliding with turbines in 2019. Elsewhere, SHOD in Spain reduced vulture mortality by 50%, with a loss of energy production of 0.07%.
Collisions with and electrocution by powerlines, are also common with MSBs in the Rift Valley/Red Sea flyway, hence mitigation strategies should be integrated in the deployment of the powerlines too.
How can we then strike a balance between generating sustainable renewable power and nature protection? A careful consideration on nature conservation, measures known as safeguards, from energy project planning to power supply is crucial to create harmony between the two sectors. Through the GEF/UNDP funded project, BirdLife International is building and facilitating development of partnerships to support strengthening of nature protection practices in sectors (such as energy) that pose the greatest risk to birds. In Djibouti, BirdLife is collaborating with Red Sea Power (RSP) to create synergies that simultaneously delivers power production and promotes nature conservation. RSP are constructing the Ghoubet Wind Farm located close to the Gulf of Tadjoura in Djibouti. Under a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed in 2021, both RSP and BirdLife endeavor to realize a win-win outcome for the wind farm through the application of best practices in the wind farm operations.
The RSP- BirdLife collaboration hopes to actualize an effective Biodiversity Management and Action Plan for the Ghoubet, with a clear aim of protecting the migratory soaring birds including the globally threatened Egyptian Vulture. Core to the plan is the on-going bird (including bat) monitoring during the construction, and a three-year post construction period, to establish the presence of at risk-birds in the project area. BirdLife has collaborated with various renewable energy projects and programmes while relying on guidelines that have been developed to support birds mainstreaming in various energy subsectors RSP has started vulture tagging to monitor their movements. Such data is crucial in informing the applicability and improvement of the safeguard measures.
Further, RSP is critically, assessing the appropriateness and feasibility of various safeguard options given that Djibouti is one of the countries that also has a significant population of non-migratory bird species. In addition, this partnership also aspires to build the capacity and increase the number of people with the required skill set for birds/biodiversity monitoring in Djibouti at windfarms, powerlines, dumpsites, and vulture restaurants. This is a major element if data and information is going to be continuously collected, managed and used to support adaptive management of the wind farm.