(BWEA) has responded to a study carried out by the RSPB which suggested that building wind farms in areas where birds of conservation concern breed in high densities could lead to a significant decline in numbers
The British Wind Energy Association (BWEA) has responded to a study carried out by the RSPB which suggested that building wind farms in areas where birds of conservation concern breed in high densities could lead to a significant decline in numbers.
Comparing the distribution of 12 species of birds across 12 upland wind farms in the UK with that on similar nearby sites without turbines, the scientific study -‘The distribution of breeding birds around upland wind farms’ – found that seven of the species showed ‘significantly lower frequencies of occurrence close to the turbines.’
The study found that no species were more abundant close to the turbines, but there was no evidence of consistent avoidance of overhead transmission lines connecting sites to the national grid.
However, speaking to NewEnergyFocus today (October 5), a spokesperson for the BWEA said: “This study shows there is a potential problem with displacement, but it is not yet proven that there is a problem with bird mortality rates.”
“Wind farms and turbines are the most benign form of energy generation and the industry has found that wind farms simply do not pose a threat if they are properly sited and follow procedure. The threat of global warming could be a far greater threat to the population of birds than wind farms,” he added.
The bird distribution research was published in the Journal of Applied Ecology two weeks ago (24 September) and was funded by RSPB Scotland, the Scottish Government, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Scottish Mountaineering Trust.
Lead author James Pearce-Higgins, senior conservation scientist with RSPB Scotland, said: “There is an urgent need to combat climate change, and renewable energy sources, such as wind farms, will play an important role in this. However, it is also important to fully understand the consequences of such development, to ensure that they are properly planned and sited.”
“In conjunction with the Scottish wind farm sensitivity map which we produced three years ago, these findings will aid planners and responsible developers in enabling Scotland to meet its renewable energy targets and avoid the most sensitive sites for birds” he added.
The study found that levels of turbine avoidance suggested breeding bird densities may be reduced within a 500-m buffer of the turbines by 15-53%, with buzzard, hen harrier, golden plover, snipe, curlew and wheatear most affected.
Bird distribution was assessed using regular surveys during the breeding season.
Commenting on the findings, Andy Douse, ornithological policy and advice manager with Scottish Natural Heritage, said: “SNH welcome the publication of this important paper, as it provides us with unequivocal evidence of both the nature and scale of bird displacement at operational wind farms.”
“It will allow us to make better, more informed assessments of proposed wind farms in future and so reduce some of the uncertainty that has existed about potential impacts,” he added.