Building pioneering projects in sensitive ecosystems may initially appear counter-intuitive, but by working with local people to monitor critical habitat, a renewable energy scheme was secured for the benefit of local communities and the conservation of endangered species.
With the Taiba N’Diaye wind farm in Senegal, potential impacts to biodiversity were mitigated by developing sustainable solutions that benefited both ecology and local people.
The Taiba N’Diaye wind farm, under construction in the Thies region of Senegal, is the first utility-scale wind power project in the country. It is being developed by a company focused on renewable energy development in West Africa.
Ramboll played a key role in providing specialist social and biodiversity input for project developers.
Upon undertaking surveys to inform the biodiversity baseline and meet international funding requirements, it became clear that the area represented potential critical habitat for both the critically endangered hooded vulture Necrosyrtes monachus and a large congregation of straw-coloured fruit bats that seasonally visit the area.
It became crucial to identify measures to protect these habitats while supporting the sustainable development of renewable energy infrastructure in Senegal.
Training local people
Bird specialists at Ramboll developed a detailed programme of surveys to assess bird and bat activity in the area in collaboration with local specialists.
Undertaking multiple visits to the Senegal site, Ramboll trained local specialists in the techniques and methods required to create a robust assessment of the impacts of the development on birds and bats that met international standards.
This information was synthesised to create a long-term Biodiversity Action Plan, which would support the conservation of critical habitat for birds and bats in the Theis region.
Long term post-construction surveys formed part of the sustainable management of critical habitat in the area and were carried out by a team of local sub-contractors incorporating members of the forestry services and local people from Taiba N’Diaye.
This project represents a success for the developer as well as the local community and biodiversity.
The project will increase the electricity generation capacity for the country by 15%, while teaching local surveyors new skills that can be used on future wind energy projects and supporting the conservation of a critically endangered species, the hooded vulture.
The biodiversity data gathered from this study will aid in the understanding of complex interactions between birds and renewable energy projects, a subject becoming increasingly important looking towards a low-carbon future.
- According to the IUCN Red List, the total Hooded vulture (Necrosyrtes monachus) population size is maximum of 197,000 individuals. Currently this species is classified as critically endangered and its numbers are decreasing
- A 2017 study focussing on hooded vulture status in Dakar (Senegal’s capital, located approximately 80 km to the south-west of the wind farm site) identified an 85% population decline from 3,000 in 1969 to 400 in 2016. Key contributing factors discussed are urbanisation, poisoning of feral dogs and loss of nesting/roosting trees (Mullie et al, 2017)
- Ruppell's vulture (Gyps rueppelli) is a large vulture that can be found throughout the Sahel region of central Africa. The current population of 22,000 is decreasing due to loss of habitat, incidental poisoning and other factors
- Once fully operational the Taiba N’Diaye wind farm capacity will be 158.7 MW, a 15% increase in electricity generation capacity for the country, providing power for over two million people
- Five surveyors were trained to undertake the post-construction surveys: two members of the forestry service and three teenagers from the village of Taiba N’Diaye. Surveyors were trained in undertaking carcass searches and the calibration surveys required to calculate searcher efficiency and scavenger bias. These skills can be used on other wind energy projects in future.