Donít duck offshore windfarm checks, urges RSPB
The Centre for Evidence-Based Conservation (CEBC) has published a comprehensive review of scientific literature on the impact of windfarms on bird populations around the world. The CEBC, based at the University of Birmingham, UK, is backed by conservation agencies and NGOs including the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK).
The review suggests that windfarms should not be built near populations of birds of conservation importance, and much more research needs to be done on the impact of offshore windfarms on vulnerable groups like ducks and waders. But current windfarm plans in the UK target the estuaries and shallows these birds need.
"We are not saying stop building windfarms," explained the CEBCís Andy Pullin, quoted in the New Scientist (7 May 2005). "Birds will suffer much more from climate change if we donít. But the data shows we have to be much more careful when we site them."
The RSPBís Director of Conservation, Mark Avery (also in the New Scientist) points out that windfarms in the wrong places are a threat to birds. However, because so few impact studies have been done, we do not know where the 'wrong places' are. The lack of data is made worse by client confidentiality arguments being used to withhold the results of Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs).
"Better understanding is needed of the cumulative impact of more and more wind farms." —Mark Avery, Director of Conservation, The RSPB
Among the reviewís more disturbing findings is that birds do not seem to 'get used' to windfarms. In fact, the longer windfarms are in operation, the worse the decline of certain bird species appears to become. But most EIAs monitor birds for no more than a year before and a year after windfarms are built.
The reviewers recommend policy-makers consider moving turbines further out to sea. "There is a limited extent of shallow water suitable for the construction of offshore windfarms, and it is in this shallow water that large aggregations of sea ducks are found."
The RSPB considers that wind has the greatest potential of all renewable energy sources in the UK, but treats windfarm proposals on a case-by-case basis, and has opposed a number of offshore developments. For example, the Environmental Statement for the proposed Tees offshore windfarm, near protected areas of Britainís north-east coast, fails to establish that there would be no negative impact on wildlife Ė in particular, important populations of sea duck such as Black Scoter Melanitta nigra.