Wind farms, nr Burnley, close up, blades frozen

Mapping and locational guidance

We hope these maps will help minimise the conflict between wind farms and birds of high conservation concern by helping planners and developers avoid sensitive sites.

Mapping sensitive areas

Climate change represents the biggest long-term threat to birds and other wildlife, and renewable energy technologies, including wind farms are an important part of the solution. 

However, we must ensure our most important wildlife sites are not put at risk by such developments.

Maps indicating the most sensitive areas in the UK for building wind farms have been produced by the RSPB and were updated as part of the RSPB’s 2050 Energy Vision project, which showed how the UK can meet its long-term decarbonisation targets in harmony with nature.

The maps identify those areas where wind farms are more likely to pose medium to high risks for important bird populations. These require more comprehensive assessment to determine where wind energy projects may be accommodated and areas where wind farms are likely to be of less concern. They are not a substitute for site-based environmental assessments.

Common or Eurasian crane Grus grus, flock flying close to wind turbine, Near Diepholz, Lower Saxony, Germany

Mapping and locational guidance

To help minimise conflict, the RSPB have produced GIS maps to aid the planning process for onshore wind energy development across the UK.

These maps and accompanying written guidance are intended to help governments and local authorities in planning for renewable energy developments and developers in directing proposals towards areas which are least likely to impact on sensitive species and habitats.

With ambitious targets for renewable energy, taking a strategic approach to where developments can best be accommodated is vital to meeting our targets sustainably.

The maps are based on distributional data for bird species considered to be sensitive to wind farm development, plus protected sites for wildlife such as statutory SPAs (Special Protection Areas), and some sensitive habitat types such as ancient woodland.

All species included have known or suspected susceptibility to the effects of wind turbines, through collision mortality, habitat loss and/or disturbance.

Full information on methods is set out in The RSPB’s 2050 Energy Vision Technical Report

The methods for onshore wind sensitivity mapping repeated those for the avian sensitivity maps previously produced in 2009 in partnership with Natural England. and those for maps previously produced in 2006 in partnership with Scottish Natural Heritage.