Birds and Power lines: mapping of flight path

Red Electrica de Espana - Spain

Red Eléctrica Corporación is the holding company of the Group and it has the following dependent subsidiaries: Red Eléctrica de España, responsible for electrical supply in Spanish territory; Red Eléctrica Internacional, responsible for the Company's foreign investment and the Company's international consultancy service and telecommunications business. Red Eléctrica de España, S.A.U. carries out its regulated activities in Spain, which represent 95% of the Group's business being the owner of all the transmission and operation assets It counts on the human and financial resources associated to these activities. In addition, it undertakes the Company's investment plan. Red Eléctrica is the sole transmission agent and operator of the Spanish electrical supply, making us the main key player in the Spanish electrical system.

Desired Results

The approach is part of REE´s extensive program of activities related to the environment and the conservation of biodiversity and arises from the quest for solutions to the problems caused by the interactions between birds and power transmission lines, mainly the collision with cables. The key objectives of the approach adopted by Red Eléctrica de España are:

  1. Reduction of the global impact of the electrical transmission system on the environment and particularly on biodiversity
  2. Improvement of the compatibility of transmission lines with birdlife by reducing the collision risk with electric cables
  3. The implementation of a tool that facilitates the decision making process in early stages of new projects taking into account the protection of birdlife
  4. The development of a process to prioritize mitigating actions of the actual grid of transmission power lines impacts on birdlife

These objectives are related with the principles number 7 (precautionary approach to environmental challenges), 8 (to promote greater environmental responsibility) y 9 (encourage the development and diffusion of environmentally friendly technologies) of the UN Global Compact.

What has been implemented in details

A tool based on the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) has been developed that integrates bird flight paths data (areas of presence and routes), to improve prevention of impacts on birds during the planning and construction stages of new electrical transmission systems, and to prioritize mitigating measures on existing lines.

This action has been implemented in all Spanish territory, where more than 400 bird species are present on regular basis and the extend of power-line grid is over 265.000 km, so mortality of birds due to collision with cables is a relevant cause of biodiversity loss. A significant effort is made to collect and homogenize existing information regarding the flight paths of 45 species of birds (focal species) considered of greatest interest due to their conservation status and sensitivity to the negative effects of power transmission lines: collision, habitat loss and disturbance.

Sensitivity maps are drafted from this information, taking into consideration different criteria (propensity to negative impacts, conservation status of species, etc.) and integrating the outcome into a national geographic information system. The tool is exploitable at different stages of work, providing in each case the most appropriate information for planning transmission grids, determining corridors of least impact for new projects and prioritizing mitigating measures.

This action will contribute to a reduction of loss of biodiversity: whether by avoiding areas for the passage of new power line corridors with a presence of sensitive species or by the application of mitigating measures on existing lines in priority areas. The developed tool will contribute to the reduction of accident rates of bird species for which the collision-related mortality is relevant. The majority of birds affected by this initiative are endangered species for which collision with cables poses a serious threat to their populations, so an appreciable benefit from the project is expected on the conservation status of these species.

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