Wind farms pose low risk to birds

Source: BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Wind farms pose low risk to birds.

Migrating birds are unlikely to be seriously affected by offshore wind farms, according to a study. Scientists found that birds simply fly around the farm, or between the turbines; less than 1% are in danger of colliding with the giant structures. Writing in the Royal Society’s journal Biology Letters, the researchers say previous estimates of collision risk have been "over-inflated".

However, conservationists warn that turbines pose other risks to birdlife. The research project involved one of Denmark’s two large offshore wind farms, Nysted in the Baltic Sea, which contains 72 turbines each measuring 69m to the top of the nacelle or hub. It started operating in 2003. "This is the first such study involving a large-scale offshore wind farm," researcher Mark Desholm, from the Environmental Research Institute in Ronde told the BBC News website.

There has been other data from farms with fewer than 10 turbines, but we thought this issue was so important because the potential for offshore wind power is so huge." Globally, offshore projects currently generate around 600 MW, less than 2% of the overall total for wind. But the potential is huge, because there is less competition for space at sea, turbines are less visible, and the wind there is often more reliable. …

David Gibbons, head of conservation science at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), told the BBC News website that this study suggested the risks to birds were smaller than had been feared. "It’s a nice, clear picture of research; there’s always been concern about turbines as ‘mincers’, but this study is suggesting that the birds fly around or go through. So on the face of it, this is pretty good news for wind farms; but there are other issues when you look at the much larger farms which are coming, and different ways in which they could affect birds.