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Israel cancels wind turbines project to spare a rare falcon

A project to erect nine wind turbines near Kibbutz Ein HaShofet in northern Israel, about 18 miles from the city of Haifa, in an ecologically sensitive area where the rare red falcons live, have been cancelled by the District Committee over the exceptional and disproportionate damage it would cause the environment, Haaretz reported Sunday.

Or, in conceptual terms, an environmentally friendly program was killed on account of endangering the environment.

The committee heard testimony last week that the rotating blades of the nine 540 ft. tall turbines could decimate the red falcon population in the area. The red falcon (Falco naumanni), a small bird of prey, 11–13 in. in length with a 25–28 in. wingspan, breeds from the Mediterranean across Afghanistan and Central Asia, to China and Mongolia. It is a summer migrant, wintering in Africa and Pakistan and sometimes in India and Iraq. It is rare north of its breeding range, and declining in its European range.

The area slated for the turbines, south of Kibbutz Ein HaShofet, is not officially a nature preserve, but has a status of an ecologically sensitive area, recognized by UNESCO.

The plan for the construction of wind turbines was promoted by the kibbutz in cooperation with Israeli green energy group Energix. At the district committee hearing, a representative of the Nature Protection Society warned against the danger to the rare birds of prey from the turbines’ blades, suggesting that the benefit in electric power from the turbines would not justify the damage to the environment.

According to Smithsonian.com, the statistics about bird deaths from wind turbines run between 10,000 birds a year that are killed by turbine blades worldwide, to 600,000, with the scientifically accepted number set at between 140,000 and 328,000 birds that die each year from flying into wind turbines. It also appears that taller turbines kill more birds, which is a big problem, as the taller turbines are more efficient at generating energy.

Dorit Sela, who represented the Environmental Protection Ministry at the District Committee meeting, said that cutting the number of turbines would not necessarily reduce the threat to the falcons and other potential victims such as bats.

The committee eventually approved constructing 16 turbines in the agricultural areas of other communities, around Ein Harod valley and Mt. Gilbua, with a proviso that each turbine would be followed and with a limit of 14 deaths annually caused by each turbine, as well as a limit of 0.2 deaths per turbine in cases of endangered species.