© Daniela Heynen
If not adequately constructed, mean voltage power poles can represent a great risk for electrocution in birds, with large species being particularly vulnerable. Technical rehabilitation measures are known.
Mean voltage power poles can represent a great risk for electrocution in birds. Due to their large wingspan, species such as Eurasian eagle-owl and white stork are particularly at risk. Already in 1997, the Association of Swiss Power Companies VSE had published a brochure with technical measures to make mean voltage power poles safe for birds. Despite this, dangerous power poles still are widespread in Switzerland.
In agreement with the partners indicated below, the Federal Office for the Environment FOEN has mandated the Swiss Ornithological Institute
a) to identify the regions of particular importance in terms of technical rehabilitation of dangerous mean voltage power poles,
b) to update the compilation of technical rehabilitation measures of dangerous mean voltage power poles.
Based on known breeding sites of Eurasian eagle-owls and white storks as well as on observations of large aggregations of white storks during the migration period, regions of particular importance for these two species were identified.
Considering the experiences of the past years, including those made in other countries (e.g. Germany), the technical measures for rehabilitation of dangerous mean voltage power poles were updated.
The risk of electrocution is particularly high for large bird species. In the white stork and the Eurasian eagle-owl, electrocution is one of the most common known causes of mortality. Mitigation of dangerous mean voltage power poles is often possible with simple measures, which, however, are still hardly implemented in Switzerland. The identification of areas of particular importance for white stork and Eurasian eagle-owl shows, where technical rehabilitation measures should be started.
In the long run, all dangerous mean voltage power poles should be made safe for use by birds.
For Eurasian eagle-owls and white storks, 12 priority regions were identified for assessing the possibilities of technical rehabilitation of mean voltage power poles. In these regions, the respective power poles should be checked in terms of safety for birds, and dangerous poles should be made safe for use by birds. The technical rehabilitation measures have been updated and provide the basis for the implementation of measures (more on the German version can be found here). The implementation has to be done in collaboration with partners, in particular with the Association of Swiss Power Companies VSE, the Federal Inspectorate for Heavy Current Installations ESTI and the Federal Office for the Environment FOEN.
The Valais and the Engadine are particularly important regions for Eurasian eagle-owls and white storks. In the valley floor, the mean voltage power poles were checked and 1.500 dangerous poles inventoried. In collaboration with the cantonal authority for hunting, fishing and wildlife and the electric utility companies concerned, the renovations are now being addressed at the large scale. The inventory in the Engadine yielded 253 dangerous mean voltage power poles. Here, the local electric utility companies have already implemented first renovations.
University of Bern, Conservation Biology
Swiss Association for the Protection of Birds SVS/BirdLife Switzerland
Verband Schweizerischer Elektrizitätsunternehmen VSE
Federal Inspectorate for Heavy Current Installations ESTI
Federal Office for the Environment FOEN
Swiss Federal Office of Energy SFOE
Federal Office of Transport FOT
Schweizerische Bundesbahnen SBB
Marion J. Hofer-Woodhead-Stiftung