Each year millions of birds die worldwide as a result of collisions with above ground power lines, and the impact on populations is likely to increase as energy infrastructure continues to grow, especially in developing countries. As for electrocution, the risks can be very significant in old, poorly sited power lines. Under the current commitments to reduce carbon emissions, signatories to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) are increasing their investments in renewable energy, particularly large wind farms.
However, any other renewable energy installations, e.g. solar and geothermal generation facilities will inevitably lead to an expansion of the powerline network which will likely increase the risk of collisions and electrocutions for vultures in certain areas. Despite their acute vision, vultures’ field of view and normal head position when foraging can make them unaware of obstructions in their direction of travel, so they may be particularly vulnerable to collisions with infrastructure such as wind turbines and powerlines. The proliferation of renewable energy initiatives can therefore be detrimental to vultures if the location of turbines and associated infrastructure are in areas favoured by these birds.
An estimated minimum number of 80 vultures (Cape and White-backed Vultures) are killed annually by collision with powerlines in Eastern Cape Province.