Electrical Power Lines

The energy which is generated must be transported to the end user.  This transportation takes place in power lines which will run over the landscape.   Continued economic generation in the region and increased consumer demand for electricity will mean the construction of additional power lines across the landscape of the flyway.  The total length of transmission and distribution lines worldwide is expected to rise from 70.5 million kilometres at the end of 2010 to 76.2 million kilometres by 2015. Across North Africa and the Middle East, thousands of additional kilometres are expected.

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Mike Fisher


Power lines can be broken down into different sections of the grid which carry different voltages across the grid.

  • High (>60kV usually 110 kV and above, Extra High > 250kV) transmission lines
  • Medium (1-59 kV) distribution lines
  • Low (<1000 V)

The MSB project has focussed on medium and high voltage lines as they are believed to pose the biggest risk to migratory soaring birds across the flyway.  Impacts are likely to be

  • Displacement/ Barriers: along migration routes or to suitable habitats/feeding grounds
  • Habitat impacts: fragmentation of habitats at the landscape level

The differing voltages also pose different sets of risks to birds.

  • Electrocution: risk associated with medium voltage  distribution power lines
  • Collision: risk associated with high voltage transmission power lines  

The cumulative impact of power lines across the region could potentially be significant and this should be considered given the large distances that power lines may travel. The potential impacts can be minimised by the use of strategic planning, appropriate routing and the use of bird-friendly line and pole design.

The MSB project has developed a set of guidance material which is targeted at a number of key audiences who are involved in the energy sector, both renewable and non-renewable.  These materials are tailored toward specific audiences and provide a framework in which to integrate bird and biodiversity concerns throughout grid infrastructure, both existing lines and those that will have to be newly constructed.

The documents are designed to be used by each stakeholder group but can also be used by organisations when approaching the different stakeholder groups for lobbying purposes, for instance, a local community can refer to both to the civil society guidance, while also approaching a developer with the developer guidance.

Alongside the guidance material, we have produced a series of case studies which relate to the impact of power lines on birds and references to mitigation actions which are being used within the region and around the world.  We have also provided links to external resources which provide valuable background information and advice.

The sensitivity mapping tool which is being developed and constantly refined in relation to the wind also provides information on Important Bird Areas and other protected areas and could provide a good reference point in relation to areas to avoid for routing.


Governments play an important role in setting the standards and legislative environment in which the grid operates and is constructed. By providing the appropriate legislative and regulatory environment governments can ensure birds and biodiversity impacts are reduced. The MSB project has provided a guidance document tailored towards governments in the region which will inform governments of actions which should be carried out to reduce the adverse impacts on birds and biodiversity. Governments and national authorities which operate and give permission to grid development should refer to this documentation.

Development Banks and Donors and Project Funders

Institution lending and investment banks often provide the necessary capital to invest in the infrastructure and planning needed for wind farm developments. These investments must ensure that the activities which take place as do not negatively impact on the environment. By ensuring that bird and biodiversity concerns are mainstreamed in project proposals and contracts will have a positive impact on wind farm developments. This can help guarantee that the energy needs of the region are met while bird and biodiversity issues have been integrated into planning and design, and across governments and sectors.

Developers and Consultants

Developers have an integral role to play in delivering wind farms and also in their operation.  They are a key stakeholder in delivering projects which if bird and biodiversity concerns are integrated will have little impacts on birds and biodiversity.  By following the guidelines developed by BirdLife for the region, developers can tailor their operations ensuring that potential negative and adverse impacts are avoided.


Partners/Civil Society

The guidance documents above provide information relevant to specific stakeholders involved in the development of wind farms.  Each stakeholder has an extremely important role to play. These documents can be used as an advocacy and information tool. We urge you when talking to specific stakeholders to refer to the documents relevant.  We have also developed a broad information sheet and document which provides some general information and guidance. This document can be shared with other stakeholder groups and can be used to generate alliances which can input into any consultation which national authorities may have


  • Guidance on impact assessment of power grids on MSB

    Guidance on appropriate means of impact assessment of electricity power grids on migratory soaring birds in the Rift Valley / Red Sea Flyway


  • MSB Guidance Power Line - Partners
    MSB Project Guidance fact-sheet for Power Lines and the birds for BirdLife Partners and Civil Society

    English | Arabic

  • MSB Guidance Power Line - Government
    MSB Project Guidance fact-sheet for Power Lines and the birds for governments

    English | Arabic

  • MSB Guidance Power Line - Donors
    MSB Project Guidance fact-sheet for Power lines and the birds for development banks and financiers

    English | Arabic

  • MSB Guidance Power Line - Developers
    MSB Project Guidance fact-sheet for Power lines and the birds for developers and consultants

    English | Arabic