IFC assessed the effects of wind turbines on birds and other species and provided a mitigation framework. © Alvaro Camina/IFC
Millions of birds soar through Jordan every year as they travel across Europe, Africa, and Asia on the world’s second-largest bird migration flyway. So in 2013, when IFC financed Tafila Wind—the first large-scale wind energy project in the Middle East—protecting these birds and the wildlife that resides in a nearby nature reserve was one of IFC’s top concerns.
Our Environmental and Social Performance Standards was the place to turn as we began to outline a plan that ensured the safety of Jordan’s wildlife. The standards require that IFC projects that might jeopardize biodiversity assess and mitigate such risks. In this case, because the impact that multiple clusters of rotating wind turbines could have on birds, bats, and other species was unknown, we launched an exhaustive study to classify the birds and other biodiversity at risk, assess potential effects, and provide a long-term approach to conservation—not only for the Tafila project but also for the other wind-energy projects near the nature reserve.
IFC’s assessment—the first of its kind in the Eastern Europe, Middle East, and North African region—applied international standards and guidance that exceeded national regulatory requirements. It laid the foundation for wind-energy projects in Jordan to achieve compliance with international best practices and encourage more sustainable investments.
Blessed with abundant wind and solar resources, Jordan has set a goal of obtaining 10 percent of its total energy from renewable sources by 2020. The Tafila project, with an installed capacity of 117 megawatts, is expected to produce about 400 Gigawatt hours annually, reducing carbon emissions by 224,000 tons per year—equivalent to taking more than 45,000 passenger cars off the road.
Traditionally, environmental studies and social-risk assessments associated with initiatives like this have been managed one discrete project at a time. But the Tafila Wind project was different. Like the wind, birds, fish, and other wildlife are not limited by the boundaries of a project—so we tailored a plan to guarantee the most effective way to protect a wide array of flora and fauna that exist in the vicinity of the nature reserve and that may be impacted by multiple projects. By considering and addressing the impact of projects on a region, interconnected ecosystems, and communities, IFC established new ways to ensure environmental and social sustainability in project development in different parts of the world.
Our first step was to bring together government authorities, wind energy developers, environmental conservation organizations, finance institutions, and technical experts. This had never been done before; in fact, lack of coordination was one of the biggest barriers to collecting much-needed data in this region of Jordan.
Once IFC convened these stakeholders and led the data collection initiative, the organizations produced a “Cumulative Effects Assessment”. An innovative regional-scale study followed to scope biodiversity-related risks, develop local capacity, collect data, and assess risks posed by multiple wind plants working in close proximity to each other and to the nature reserve. The group also evaluated the threats on biodiversity posed by factors external to the project, such as hunting, poisoning, and electrocution.
Some key proposed mitigation measures to minimize impacts on birds included identifying a wind-farm layout with the least impact on known flight paths, monitoring highly threatened birds during the operations phase of the wind projects, and shutting down turbines when birds are flying at heights where they may collide with rotating turbines.
The evaluation and mitigation framework we developed is currently in use at one wind farm and can be adapted to other sectors where multiple companies operate near each other and in landscapes or seascapes with high biodiversity values. This is important because in addition to Tafila Wind, four other wind power projects are at various stages of planning and development in Jordan, and many more will follow in Egypt, which is located in the same flyway.
With this model in place, sustainable development of the wind sector may be a real possibility. We also see promise in the development of national guidelines, which have been initiated by the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature alongside IFC’s biodiversity specialists. Investors, developers, authorities, and civil society organizations across Jordan now have increased awareness and a unified vision for biodiversity management.
The investment in Tafila Wind is part of IFC’s broader effort to help Jordan boost its domestic energy capacity through renewable power. Our latest investment, announced in September 2016, was directed to the construction of a 50-megawatt solar plant that will power more than 40,000 homes at a cost that is among the lowest for solar energy worldwide.
To learn more about IFC’s approach to sustainability, visit www.ifc.org/sustainability
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Published in February 2017