|Avoiding conflicts between wind power and bird protection
BirdLife supports wind power development, as it is an important technology for cutting greenhouse gas emissions and reducing the grave risks climate change poses for birds.
Most wind farms cause very few bird deaths, and effects on overall bird populations have not been recorded. However some badly-sited wind farms in California and Spain have resulted in high numbers of raptor strikes, and unfortunately this has caused long-term damage to wind power’s reputation.
Today in Europe bad proposals of this kind would normally be rejected in the planning system when environmental impact assessments (EIAs) reveal the scale of likely impacts. However not all EIAs are properly conducted and taken into account in planning decisions, as has been seen for example in Romania and Italy.
‘Avoiding harm’ to biodiversity then becomes a matter of fighting a last-minute battle to ensure the damaging proposal is reconsidered. This is costly for all concerned and generates antagonism between developers and NGOs.
In Italy it has been considered necessary to ban certain activities in Natura 2000 areas, including wind farm development, because planning control at the project-level cannot be relied upon to prevent harm.
A much better approach is to map the species that are vulnerable to wind farm (or other technology) development, and to use this in strategic spatial planning. Combined with a positive dialogue between developers and NGOs this can enable rapid development of renewable energy without significant impacts on biodiversity, as seen in Scotland in recent years.
Strategic environmental assessment of national, regional or local spatial plans provides an ideal framework for using such data and structured input from stakeholders in identifying zones that are most suitable for development. When spatial plans are not developed at all, as seen in Romania, or developed without use of SEA as seen in some regions in Spain, the benefits of more rapid deployment, lower costs, positive relationships with stakeholders and public support cannot be achieved.
|More case studies on renewable energy and nature conservation:
Smallwood, K.S. & Karas, B. (2009) Avian and bat fatality rates at old-generation and repowered wind turbines in California. Journal of Wildlife Management,
RSPB (BirdLife partner in the UK)
Ivan Scrase, Ivan.Scrase(at)rspb.org.uk