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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
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
Mareña Renovables Wind Power Project in Oaxaca Mexico
General Wind Park Characteristics
Number of wind-generating towers
52 Km (32 miles)
Total Wind Park Project Cost
14 billion MXN pesos
Industrial Energy Savings from Total Energy Costs
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
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
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
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.
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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 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.