Ecological Implications of Wind Power

Responsibly Disrupting an Ecosystem for the Higher Good

The energy issue is one that concerns countries all around the world both for economic as for ecological reasons. Within it, sustainability is a variable that has slowly but surely factored in in this complex equation and ever more pressing search for alternative sources of energy. Today, we need to analyze our energy dilemmas with a very long term view as to include and adequately address all the variables involved.

Wind Power has got a very ecofriendly face and is a potentially idyllic source of energy that could please the harshest of environmentalists, as it generates no contaminating waste. Nevertheless, even this clean source of renewable energy could have a negative environmental result if it isn’t planned considering the ecological characteristics of the region, and the flora and fauna that comprise its ecosystem.


Wind Power Project Preserving the Safety of Sea Turtles

The Mareña Renovables Wind Power Project in Oaxaca, Mexico, is committed to protect and preserve the home range of the sea turtles inhabiting the influence area of the wind farm, including the Black Sea Turtle here shown.
The Mareña Renovables Wind Power Project in Oaxaca, Mexico, is committed to protect and preserve the home range of the sea turtles inhabiting the influence area of the wind farm, including the Black Sea Turtle here shown. | Source

Sustainable Wind Farm in Oaxaca Mexico

An example of a way in which it is possible to responsibly disrupt an ecosystem to successfully achieve its safety, while implementing wind power in the area, is the Mareña Renovables Wind Power Project to be constructed in Oaxaca, Mexico.

This undergoing enterprise has factored in a complete survey of the region where the wind park is to be located to assess the possible impact of the wind park in the ecosystem. In turn, the survey has enabled the creation of a set of biodiversity conservation measures that will be implemented during the wind park construction, and throughout its operation, to ensure the protection and preservation of endangered spices within the habitat.

An overall description of the Mareña Renovables Wind Power Project follows, which include its general characteristics and capacity, along with a point-on description of the biodiversity conservation measures that will be taken to minimize the impact of the wind park in the region, where it will be running to provide energy for inhabitants and big industrial companies that live and operate in the vicinity.


Map of Mexico

 The region in the State of Oaxaca where the Wind Farms are being build is marked with a red square (see amplified coast of Oaxaca map below for more detail).
The region in the State of Oaxaca where the Wind Farms are being built is marked with a red square (see amplified coast of Oaxaca map below for more detail). | Source

Mareña Renovables Wind Power Project in Oaxaca Mexico

General Wind Park Characteristics
Mareña Renovables
Number of wind-generating towers
132
Transmission line
52 Km (32 miles)
Capacity
396 MW
Total Wind Park Project Cost
14 billion MXN pesos
Industrial Energy Savings from Total Energy Costs
10%
Carbon Dioxide Reduction
1 million tons / year

Mareña Renovables Wind Power Project

The Mareña Renovables Wind Power Project involves the financing of a wind park with a total capacity of 396 MW constructed over two adjacent land areas:

  • San Dioniosio del Mar (306 MW), which is located in an area referred to as “Barra Santa Teresa”, and
  • Santa Maria del Mar (90 MW) located in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in the State of Oaxaca, Mexico.

The Project is being developed by the Mexican Economic Development Company (FEMSA), Macquarie Asset Finance Limited (a subsidiary of Macquarie Capital Group Limited) and Macquarie Mexican Infrastructure Fund, with a total project cost of approximately 14 Billion Mexican Pesos.

Mareña Renovables Wind Power Project represents the largest wind park in Mexico and one of the largest in all Latin America. The wind park will provide energy to 450,000 homes and to subsidiaries of FEMSA and the Mexican brewery Cervecería Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma (CCM - Heineken), which will allow the companies to save approximately 10 percent of the total energy costs.

The project encompasses the construction of 132 wind-generator towers with a transmission line of 52 kilometers that will connect the wind park with the electric network, which will reduce the carbon dioxide emissions in approximately one million tons per year, contributing to lessen the greenhouse effect.

The International Development Bank (IDB) approved a loan of up to 1.100 million Mexican Pesos (US$72 million) for its construction, as it wants to help Mexico make use of its huge wind resources so that the country can meet its increasing energy demand and, at the same time, reduce the amount of fossil combustibles it currently imports to generate electricity. The operation forms part of a multiple action plan by the IDB to support Mexico in the promotion and development of the renewable energy industry.


Amplified Coast of Oaxaca Mexico

show route and directions
A markerSan Dioniosio del Mar, Oaxaca, Mexico -
[get directions]

Construction Site for the Wind Farm

B markerBarra Santa Teresa, Oaxaca, Mexico -
[get directions]

Construction Site for the Wind Farm

C markerGulf of Tehuantepec -
[get directions]

Habitat for SeaTurtles

Biodiversity Conservation Measures

TheMareña Renovables Wind Power Project includes a Biodiversity Conservation Plan whose objective is to minimize the impact of the Mareña Wind Farms on the ecosystem, giving particular protection and support to the main animal species observed in the area, many of which are vulnerable or endangered species.

The program will monitor and guaranty the safe development of the following animals and their corresponding habitat:

  • 12 species of birds
  • Lesser Long-nosed Bat
  • Tehuantepec Jackrabbit
  • Black Turtle
  • Leatherback Turtle
  • Olive Ridley Turtle


Birds

For both wind farm sites, a total of 12 birds species were recorded flying at an altitude that may expose them to collision (i.e. between 40 m and 120 m) for which the following mitigation measures will be implemented:

  • Technical shutdown of the turbines when significant flock of birds are observed and expected to fly over the wind farm (the shutdown may only apply for the turbines located in the birds’ trajectory).
  • Some blades will be painted in red and white to increase their visibility.

This measure will be ongoing during the wind park’s operation and monitoring will continue for a period of three years.


Specie's Upclose Features

The Lesser long-nosed bat is the most abundant species observed in the Mareña Renovables Wind Power Project site.
The Lesser long-nosed bat is the most abundant species observed in the Mareña Renovables Wind Power Project site. | Source

Lesser Long-Nosed Bat

The wind farm site of San Dionisio is frequented by the Lesser long-nosed bat, which has been included as a vulnerable species in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. This species is also the most abundant one observed during the 12 months baseline survey in the area, representing 67% of all observations.

The information on the habitat and flight route of the Lesser long-nosed bat within the future wind farm is currently incomplete; nevertheless, the post-construction monitoring will determine the flight route as well as the location of roosting sites and preferred habitat, areas that will be considered critical for the species, and therefore off limits, within the wind farm construction site.


Tehuantepec Jackrabbit

This species is listed as Endangered per the IUCN Red List and the wind farm site of Santa Maria contains approximately 40% of the entire population.

Residual impacts during the construction period such as increased mortality due to accidental road kills and disturbance to habitats (burrows, feeding and breeding areas) may remain.

The document entitled Biodiversity Conservation Plan and Population Studies of the Lepus Flavigularis, presented by the company on June 2011, contains relevant recommendations and mitigation measures to prevent impact and to enhance the conservation of the hare.

On this matter, the company shall undertake the following actions:

  • Constitute a technical and scientific committee to supervise and guide conservation actions.
  • Provide a work plan for the creation of the 200 hectares of Environment Management Unit (UMA), which constitutes an important off limits area set aside to compensate for any residual impact on the Jackrabbit that may occur during the wind farm’s construction; the company shall present a work plan that will lead to its creation prior to financial closure.
  • Establish and submit to the IDB a monitoring protocol for the construction period -to document accidental road kills and other potential impacts such as inadvertent destruction of burrows- in form and substance satisfactory to IDB prior to financial closure.
  • Provide monthly short reports to IDB.
  • Establish a long term monitoring protocol, in form and substance satisfactory to IDB, which must include the following mitigation measures:


Conservation Measures for the Tehuantepec Jackrabbit
Minimize the creation of new roads by using existing ones.
New roads shouldn’t be asphalted or wider than 6 m.
Avoid fragmentation of habitat.
Install proper signaling for drivers in areas where the Jackrabbit is susceptible to be present.
Make a visual survey of the area, prior to the erection of each turbine, to determine presence of juveniles and burrows. If encountered, relocate juveniles in a safe area.
Monitor access to the site to ensure that there is no illegal entries for hunting purposes.
Educate the workers, local communities (fishermen, schools etc.) on the presence of the Jackrabbit and its ecological importance.
Explore partnership opportunities with the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) for the long term conservation of the Jackrabbit.


The client will present evidence that sufficient financial and human resources are allocated on an ongoing basis to ensure implementation and monitoring of the mitigation measures.


Sea Turtles Inhabiting the Area

The Mareña Renovables Wind Power Project in Oaxaca, Mexico, is committed to protect and preserve the home range of the sea turtles inhabiting the influence area of the wind farm, including the Leatherback Sea Turtle here shown.
The Mareña Renovables Wind Power Project in Oaxaca, Mexico, is committed to protect and preserve the home range of the sea turtles inhabiting the influence area of the wind farm, including the Leatherback Sea Turtle here shown. | Source
Olive Ridley Sea Turtle
Olive Ridley Sea Turtle | Source

Marine Turtles

The Inferior Lagoon and the Gulf of Tehuantepec are part of the home range of three marine turtles: the Black Turtle, which is considered Endangered, the Leatherback, listed as Critically Endangered, and the Olive Ridley turtle that is Vulnerable.

During construction, the increased maritime traffic to transport the turbines and equipment may augment the risk of exposure to collisions for the marine turtles. Nesting areas could also be inadvertently destroyed.

The Biodiversity Conservation Plan and Population Studies on Marine Turtles presented by the company, contains relevant recommendations and mitigation measures to prevent damage and to enhance the conservation of the marine turtles. The following mitigation measures are expected to be applied:


  • Adopt best industry practices to avoid collisions between maritime traffic and marine turtles on an ongoing basis.
  • Establish a monitoring protocol during the construction period in form and substance satisfactory to IDB (prior to construction).
  • Identify, monitor and protect nesting areas during construction and operation.
  • Patrol site during nighttime to prevent and diminish illegal collection of turtle eggs.

More by this Author


Please Levae Your Comments on Wind Power and Wind Farms and Their Ecological Implications 10 comments

Claudia Tello profile image

Claudia Tello 2 years ago from Mexico Author

HSchneider: Thanks for your feedack, I totally agree with you. Changing to sustainable, renewable energy is imperative but we do need to evaluate each case and look at the broader picture as to make the impact as positive as can be given the alternatives.


HSchneider 2 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

Wonderful Hub, Claudia. We definitely need to move briskly towards an alternative renewable energy world. We also need to take into account each case's environmental negative impacts. You highlight this very well. Thumbs up.


Claudia Tello profile image

Claudia Tello 3 years ago from Mexico Author

cardiff_martian, thanks for your kind comments. I was surprised by the eco-friendly approach this whole venture had and, like you, very happy indeed. However, the project is still being threatened by lack of communication between the parties involved and might even be detained. I will be following the case to see where it leads to.


cardiff_martian 3 years ago

Thank you for a very interesting hub. It's good to see an industrial development taking into account the impacts that it will have on other species. Do you intend to do a follow-up review to see if the developers do actually put these measures into practice?


Claudia Tello profile image

Claudia Tello 3 years ago from Mexico Author

Alejandro, thanks for your input, I definitely wish that happens one day!


Alejandro Macías 3 years ago

I found this a very interesting article which I hope a lot of people will read. I definitely think there is always a lack of communication and if you can find the right channels, I think your article will be read by the right people and be a big success.

Congratulations


Claudia Tello profile image

Claudia Tello 3 years ago from Mexico Author

midget38, I know, never thought of it myself, but indeed, every single alteration to an ecosystem creates an imbalance that could affect the biodiversity, even when it is done with a good, ecological perspective. Wind power is definitely one of the cleanest energies one could imagine but it must be planned with a long term, broader view, and once one starts to think of it, it is completely logical. I really hope this project in Mexico is successfully accomplished and generates grate overall results. Thanks for dropping by and for your kind comment.


midget38 profile image

midget38 3 years ago from Singapore

I guess when wind generation projects are developed, biodiversity has to be put into consideration. I am keeping your excellent hub as a reference!!Sharing.


Claudia Tello profile image

Claudia Tello 3 years ago from Mexico Author

Hey billybuc, I know, our energy demand is so great that there is still lots of work needed to meet that demand and rely 100% in alternative energy sources. However, every step towards a sustainable cleaner world is getting us closer. Thanks for taking the time to putting your thoughts into words :).


billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

It will be interesting to see the future of wind power farms. We have a large one in Washington State where I live; from what I understand, it is a efficient and totally functional, but still does not provide the power that is really necessary to be a viable alternative to hydroelectric power.

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