| A recipe for wind power succes in Scotland
RSPB Scotland/BirdLife UK and Scottish Natural Heritage have worked together to produce a Scottish “birds and wind farms” sensitivity map (Bright et al., 2006). This was based on (i) distributions of 18 species of bird that are considered sensitive to wind energy developments, (ii) sites protected under the EU Birds Directives (SPAs), and (iii) other sites hosting nationally important populations of breeding waders and wintering waterfowl. Reviews of literature on foraging ranges, collision risk and disturbance distances were conducted for each of the 18 species, to determine appropriate buffering distances. The findings were used to create a map of Scotland with each 1 km square classified as “high”, “medium” or “low/unknown” sensitivity. The map is intended to identify areas where it is considered there is more potential for impact of wind farms on sensitive bird species and stricter assessment of possible effects may be required, rather than to identify ”no go” areas.
Following completion of the map, RSPB Scotland wrote to the Local Planning Authorities in Scotland inviting them to request more detailed maps for their area, and also provided the map to developers, consultants and other stakeholders. The Highland Council used the sensitivity ratings, alongside other constraint layers such as cost, visibility and designated sites, when identifying preferred areas for wind farm development in the Highland Renewable Energy Strategy. Scottish Natural Heritage has produced its own location guidance for wind farms in Scotland, incorporating a number of different “natural heritage sensitivities” and including the RSPB Scotland/SNH birds and wind farms sensitivity map. Local authorities now routinely refer to this guidance in their spatial planning policies. It is no coincidence that Scotland has a high level of public support for wind power investment and a rapidly expanding onshore wind industry.
Further, these proactive efforts to avoid harm have helped build and maintain positive working relationships between conservation NGOs and developers in Scotland. RSPB Scotland and wind developers such as ScottishPower Renewables and Scottish and Southern Energy are among the organisations involved in an ambitious project called “Good Practice in Wind Energy Development” (GP Wind). The project promotes good practices in the deployment of wind energy in Europe, providing a ‘good practice guide’ and a ‘toolkit’ through its web site. Led by the Scottish Government, and funded by the Intelligent Energy Europe Programme, GP Wind addresses barriers to the development of onshore and offshore wind generation. It does this by identifying and developing good practice in two key areas: community engagement and reconciling renewable energy with wider environmental objectives. By bringing together renewables developers, regional and local government, environmental agencies and NGOs such as the RSPB from eight different regions of Europe to share experiences, the project facilitates the deployment of renewable energy in support of the European 2020 targets.
Bright, J.A., Langston, R.H.W., Bullman, R., Evans, R.J., Gardner, S., Pearce-Higgins, J &Wilson, E. (2006) Bird sensitivity map to provide locational guidance for onshore wind farms in Scotland. RSPB research report no. 20, RSPB, Sandy, UK.
Aedan Smith, Aedan.smith(at)rspb.org.uk