An evaluation of the environmental regulations for the protection of avifaunal biodiversity in light of solar energy development.
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The socio-economic benefits associated with solar energy facilities considering the energy crisis, coupled with its positive impacts of a reduced carbon footprint provide the case for solar energy. The inarguable need for solar energy in South Africa is further supported by the latest Integrated Resource Plan (2019). Solar energy is still, however, an emerging energy technology in South Africa, and comes with associated negative impacts, many of which are still unknown, and pose a serious threat to avifauna, directly, indirectly and cumulatively. The South African Constitution, along with other supporting legal framework currently in place, is recognised for its fundamental environmental right offering protection to biodiversity which encompasses avifauna as part of wildlife to be protected. The state is obligated to fulfil its Constitutional responsibility to adequately assess every environmental application for construction and operation of solar energy facilities to minimise potential harm to avifauna through sustainable development mechanisms. Lastly, this paper highlights the importance and practical relevance of the principle of sustainable development, and provides recommendations that can guide developers to sustainably develop solar energy facilities in assisting South Africa in striking a proper balance in its transition to a low-carbon society while protecting and conserving avifauna.