Guest post by Kelsie Pettit, Energy and Climate Policy Officer, RSPB Scotland
The above words, spoken by a colleague from Birdlife International at the European launch of the Good Practice Wind project (GP Wind), are a reflection on the global community in which we live.
Our insatiable media and virtual connectedness makes it child’s play to find examples of birds being harmed by poorly sited wind farms. This causes huge damage to the reputation of the wind industry internationally, and provides fodder for vocal anti-wind groups looking for any shred of evidence to use against proposals for new wind farms. Never mind that we don’t (so far) have ‘problem wind farms’ in Scotland – every story about a wind farm causing harm to wildlife and the natural environment, no matter where in the world it is, erodes the level of public acceptability for new developments, and bolsters the myth that wind farms and wildlife cannot co-exist peacefully.
The RSPB supports the continued development of an environmentally sustainable wind energy industry as a proven way to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. So when RSPB Scotland had the opportunity to be involved in a project looking at how to reconcile wind farm development with both the environment and community interests, we naturally jumped at it.
Good practice at Beinn Glas
Led by the Scottish Government, with RSPB Scotland as a leading partner and with input from across eight European member states, the GP Wind project has sought to identify and learn from good practices in wind energy. The good practice guidance produced as a result of GP Wind is an incredible resource. Have a rummage around. As well as the numerous recommendations for developers and decision makers there are hundreds of real life examples of good practice showing that the wind industry can, with the right approach, get it right.
If developers avoid proposing new wind farms on areas of known natural heritage sensitivity and bring communities along with them, then ultimately the process by which they gain planning consent will become more efficient, saving time and money for all involved. That’s the theory anyway.
The Scottish Government’s ambitious targets for renewable energy, coupled with the fact that a lot of the ‘easy’ sites have been used up, means that the pressure on our most valuable wildlife sites will only increase. That’s why we promote a strategic approach to the development of the wind industry. The importance of strategic planning for renewables has been identified through GP Wind as well as in this report from Birdlife.
A national strategic approach to onshore wind would drive the industry towards those areas of least environmental sensitivity. We can’t afford to make the mistakes seen elsewhere – the future of the industry depends on convincing the sceptical public that wind farms can be developed in harmony with nature.
So please do check out the good practice guidance and let us know what you think about it.