You may have noticed several articles in the news about our plans to install a small wind turbine on our Loch of Strathbeg reserve. We thought we'd put together some information about the plan and process to help answer any questions.
Loch of Strathbeg wind turbine- Frequently Asked Questions
Q1) Surely a turbine located so close to Loch of Strathbeg is going to kill lots of birds?
Absolutely not. RSPB Scotland operates a nature reserve at loch of Strathbeg with the primary aim of providing a site that is fantastic for birds and other wildlife. We would not carry out any activity that we thought would jeopardise those aims in any way. We know this site very well after having managed it as a nature reserve for a number of years. In addition, to make doubly sure this turbine would not be harmful to birds or other wildlife, we carried out a detailed ornithological assessment in order to examine the potential impact on birds using the Loch of Strathbeg and the surrounding area. The results of this assessment have shown that the turbine will not harm populations of birds at Loch of Strathbeg or the surrounding area.
Q2) What did the assessment show and how was it carried out?
The assessment was carried out following methodology developed by Scottish Natural Heritage, in association with experts at RSPB. This involved collecting over 55 hours of flight data in order to gain a detailed understanding of the species and numbers of birds flying through the area that the turbine will occupy. This is significantly greater than the minimum standard of assessment required for developments of this type.
Species recorded flying through the turbine site included rooks from a nearby rookery and crows. Pink footed geese were found to fly through the site very infrequently and whooper swan even less frequently. We are confident that the risk to these species is very small. However, we will also monitor the site after the turbine is installed and, in the extremely unlikely case of the turbine causing unexpected harm to wildlife, we will take action to eliminate this risk. This could involve, for example, stopping the turbine operating during high risk periods such as when goose numbers are particularly high during migration.
Q4) How can RSPB object to other local turbine developments and then apply for their own turbine
The RSPB Supports the development of renewable energy, including wind energy, because of the urgent need to reduce our green house gas emissions. Climate change is a massive threat to wildlife and people in Scotland and across the world. The RSPB therefore supports wind energy development as long as individual developments are sited and designed to avoid harm to our most important places for wildlife. The single turbine at the Loch of Strathbeg will be sited to avoid any risk to bird populations or other wildlife and will also be relatively small at less than 19m metres to the top of the blade tips. This compares to a standard commercial turbine, which can be well over 100 metres to the top of the blade tips.
We assess each wind energy proposal on its own merits and will work with developers to try and ensure that their developments do not cause significant harm to wild birds or other wildlife. We have completed rigorous survey work to establish that this turbine at Strathbeg will not have significant impact on local bird populations. However, where developments are sited or designed in such a way that there is a risk to wildlife, we object robustly.
Q5) Will this turbine not displace lots of geese from the areas they feed in?
No. This turbine site has been deliberately chosen to have minimal impact on the geese. They do not feed in the fields here.
Q6) There are lots of wind turbine applications in the area around Loch of Strathbeg. What will the cumulative impact of these be?
This is extremely hard to measure and quantify but it is something that we are concerned about, particularly in relation to larger turbine developments (>50m in height), which are more likely to have an impact on birds using the Loch of Strathbeg . When responding to planning applications, we encourage the collection of post-construction monitoring in order to contribute to cumulative impact assessment. This will help to get a better idea of the cumulative impact of turbines in the area.
The ornithology report considers cumulative impact, based on the information available. This has shown that the proposed turbine at Loch of Strathbeg will have little impact on the significance of the cumulative impact of wind turbines in the wider area.
For further information regarding our case work and renewable energy, please visit: http://www.rspb.org.uk/ourwork/casework/energy.aspx.