Wind Farms


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Wind Farms

  • Damage to bird and bat populations is often mentioned in arguments against new turbine installations and in recent weeks I have picked up comments (in non-wildlife articles) which imply significant losses. For example, one comment was to the effect that a wind farm in the States had killed over 100 eagles in a few years of operation. Another passing comment said that these farms can have a catastrophic effect on bats, both from direct collisions and from organ damage due to pressure-wave effects close to the blades.

    It would be very helpful and interesting to have some hard evidence.

    Checking this website, I found a few papers on wind farms but they were not very informative. Most dated from the early 2000s and called for thorough and extensive research into the effect of these farms but did not mention any hard data. There was one recent survey but it only addressed displacement, not collisions.

    I am sure these issues have been extensively researched in recent years and I expect that reliable data are available. Hopefully there are some members on here who can provide first-hand feedback or provide links to reputable surveys? It would also be very interesting to hear the views of anyone who has had turbines installed closeby in recent years.

  • Hi this is an interesting debate, we have 12 turbines put up within the last 2 years, pretty close to where i live, i can't say that it has effected the wildlife as there are just as many birds in the area but i am no expert on this.

  • Hi last year on one of the forums on another site showed a vidio of some griffon vultures circling around a turbine, untill one went to close and the blade took the birds wing off, but as for bats I would say turbines would not affect them, I work with a local bat man and he tells me he would not believe they would affect them. hope it helps. Alan

  • Thanks for the replies and those links - there seems to be a lot about studies and methodologies but not so much by way of actual numbers. Given how long turbines have been in use, that is a bit disappointing.

    That said, there are some worrying points in the links. A German study reported roughly 30 bat deaths per turbine per year and an article in the Telegraph quoted a death toll of a million birds per year in Spain.

    If those numbers are representative, it is very surprising that there has not been a major outcry, especially as turbine numbers are forecast to increase dramatically in the near future.

    It would be good to get an up-to-date view from the RSPB - they must surely have some idea of the real killrate?

  • Hi all, click the following link to see the RSPB policy on wind farms

    There are lots of horrific stories on the Internet about how wind farms have caused massive loss of life to birds and bats through collisions, however one crucial fact often gets missed out. Many of the sites involved were located in great places for wind but without any thought to bird behaviour or bat population movements in these localities during the planning. Turbines located in migration corridors, on ridges where thermals and updrafts are created, are hazardous to wild birds. The case in the USA you refer to might be Altamont pass, similar issues were encountered in Spain at Tarifa, . Careful selection of the site is imperative in preventing losses to wildlife both in terms of preventing collisions and damage to habitat.

    Wind power is one of a suite of renewable energy technologies that are needed to combat the biggest threat to biodiversity, climate change. Wind power proposals need to be looked at on a case by case basis. Projects that site wind turbines in locations where species and habitats are not damaged will not be opposed by the RSPB and should help the efforts to reduce carbon emmissions. However our conservation teams around the UK will continue to oppose any potentially damaging developments to species and habitats.

    We have tried to guide developers away from sensitive sites by creating sensitivity maps highlighting areas where vulnerable species and sensitive habitats are found.  Where turbines are located sensibly the impact on bird populations is likely to be minimal but we think it is essential for adequate monitoring to be put in place.

  • IanH, thanks for your message. I did read the policy and agree that it is emminently sensible to position turbines "sensitively". There have been calls for monitoring for many years now, as in that RSPB policy of 2005, but little seems to have been done. I base that comment on my own limited search results which was why I asked if anyone has solid data.

    It would be interesting to know how many UK installations have been opposed by the RSPB? Presumably part of any opposition would be based on estimates of birdkill.

    In the face of some alarming comments which pop up on the web, it would be helpful and reassuring to have some reliable facts, such as:

    > What is the mortality rate around poorly-sited turbines?

    > How does that compare with ones which are correctly sited?

    > What species are most at risk? (This one is particularly worrying as there are reports of large numbers of raptors being killed.)

    Putting it bluntly...What is the cost in wildlife terms of our fast-growing wind energy programme?

  • Hi Jake, which wind turbine proposal do you have concerns over? It may be that one of our local conservation officers has already looked into it, have a look at our list of offices and contact your local RSPB office to find out more.

    Our conservation teams around the UK look into literally thousands of proposed developments every year, many of them wind farms, you can read about some of the current ones on our casework pages here.

    If you are looking for site specific data then I would suggest contacting the wind farm operators of those developments, asking if they would be happy to share their monitoring data for the site. As for the species which are most at risk, please read the document that accompanies the sensitivity map I pointed out in my last reply as you should find that this is a very useful resource.

  • Hi Ian,

    Thanks for your follow-up.

    Unfortunately the link to the sensitivity maps is not working at present (or not for me, a self-confessed techno-numpty!).

    I read through the case studies. Only a few of them mention specific numbers: one talks of projections of 8 eagles being killed over 25 years at one site; another estimates 214 geese killed per year by a farm with 50-odd turbines. These figures appear to come from the EIAs which are not linked (that I could find). In any case I do not have hours to spend trying to "drill down" to uncover some numbers.

    I was hoping that these figures would have been collated already in order to have an overall assessment of the impact of these projects. Further, given how long some have now been running, I thought there may have been some studies done to confirm the real mortality figures which would, of course, be key information in reviewing future projects.

    I do not have any specific projects in mind; I was hoping to be able to get some idea of the real impact of these farms given the alarming figures I have seen elsewhere (which may be unfounded).

    Your final para infers that the farm operators may have these figures as part of their monitoring data. However, it also suggests that the RSPB does not see the info - otherwise it would presumably be publicly available. That is disappointing: it seems entirely reasonable to give the RSPB full access to any relevant info to inform future policy.

    So is this in fact the situation....the RSPB does not have actual figures for birdkill at the many windfarms around the country?

  • Very interesting thread.

    In Sussex, the community consultation period for Eon's proposed Rampion Offshore Wind Farm (13km offshore from South Downs National Park) runs until Sunday, May 6. I'd be very interested to read about any investigation the RSPB have done into this particular project.

  • Hi Jake, sorry for the delay in responding, try this link here for the sensitivity maps and here to publications including a downloadable document that lists some useful resources including the only document I am aware of that collates bird strike data from wind farm sites across Europe.

    Unfortunately the monitoring data from wind farm sites is not all stored in a central database hence my suggestion for contacting the operators of individual sites that you have an interest in.

    Jason, please contact your local RSPB conservation team, details can be found via the link here.

  • Thanks Ian.

    I did manage to find that Bern convention report when I first started looking into this. It dates from 2003 but many of the studies it draws upon were done 10 or more years before. Back then turbines were pygmies compared to today's machines, even so the height of the rotor arc was a major issue. There was also a common theme of relatively large numbers of raptors being killed.

    With the colossal expansion of wind farms and the huge growth in the size of the machines, it is very worrying that there does not appear to be any sort of integrated monitoring. It would appear that we have no idea of toll on birdlife of the current wind park. That begs the question of how, in principle, the RSPB can support these farms?

  • I'm afraid that I'm a total wind turbine sceptic (NB not a climate change sceptic - Anyone who hasn't been able to spot for themselves that the climate is changing is either still in nappies or really needs to get outside more).

    Even if global warming is being driven by cultural CO2 emissions (perhaps it is - I don't know) we could cover the entire British Isles with wind turbines at, say, 50m centres and it won't make the slightest difference to rising sea levels etc. Furthermore a good blocking anticyclone over the UK (which would last a week or more) would return us to dependency on fossil fuels straight away.  So landscapes and seascapes are being industrialised for no real benefit other than to subsidy farmers.

    And there's the rub, aside from the incidental bird chopping and bat bursting (it's the sudden differential air pressure caused by fast moving turbine blades that does for bats) you've turned a natural landscape, possibly valued by many many people, into an industrial one. People no longer come to see a once iconic scenic view; Tourism dwindles; B&Bs feel the pinch. Thousands of visitors trek up to Yat Rock every year and it's mainly for the amazing view over a loop in the River Wye. The Peregrines are a bonus. Plonk even a single turbine on the hillside across the river and the view is massively compromised, and the odd Goshawk career (and indeed wingspan) might well get shortened. Fewer visitors will bother to come and see just another wind turbine.

    The RSPB doesn't really get landscape conservation. It never did.

    The climate is changing and the landscape will change with it. We must adapt as best we can and try to make it easier for wildlife to adapt too, but coating the UK with wind turbines won't save the Snow Buntings, or Dotterels or Ptarmigans.    

  • Just found this quote on the American Bird Conservancy site:

    "Estimates by the federal government say that currently, about 440,000 birds are killed annually by wind farms in the U.S., nearly one bird every minute."

    That brought to mind the studies referenced by the RSPB position paper which made the point that tracking kills is very difficult because the evidence is both hard to find and likely to disappear fast - foxes etc.. So the real killrate may be much higher.

  • By chance I found out that the RSPB has just published a paper in the Journal of Applied Ecology:

    From the synopsis it looks at the impact of 18 farms and concludes that the main concern is disturbance to habitat during construction.

    Only 10 species were covered by the survey which did not include any raptors, gulls, corvids or waterfowl.

  • Martin Harper has today published a blog on this subject.

    I do find it interesting in this piece that the RSPB has lost members through its support of some wind farms and also lost members by opposing others, it can't really win.