Wildlife & Energy Programme

Solar Energy and Birds in South Africa

Currently in South Africa, two types of large scale solar power plants are being considered by developers, Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) plants, as well as a multi-phase Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Projects. The CSP plants being considered are usually of the Molten-Salt type, Central Receiver (tower) technology, and will primarily consist of the following four components: Solar Field (including numerous reflective heliostats); Molten Salt Circuit; The Power Block; and auxiliary facilities and infrastructure. It is the view of the EWT, that CSP technology will present a greater risk to birds than PV projects, while associated infrastructure such as powerlines, required for both PV and CSP projects, may be the greatest impact of all.

Very little is known worldwide about the impact of large solar  facilities on birds, and even less so in South Africa as we do not have any  operational large scale facilities at present.

Potential Issues relating to the CSP plants may include:

  • Collision with the heliostats (mirrors)
  • Collision with the central receiver tower
  • Roosting on the central receiver tower
  • Burning when in vicinity of the central receiver
  • Burning when entering the “standby focal points”
  • Loss of habitat
  • Disturbance
  • Pollution caused by leaching of chemical substances into waste water evaporation ponds
  • Nesting of species on the plant infrastructure