Wind Turbines and Wildlife
Wind turbines are still a relatively new technology so assessments on the impact upon wildlife and wildlife habitats are ongoing. The movement of the rotor blades, general vibration in the environment and potential damage such as to peat bogs are all cause for concern.
Wildlife There is very little information regarding the effect of wind turbines upon wildlife as yet, though, as reported in New Scientist, scientists in the US have been studying squirrels. The scientists compared squirrels living near wind turbines to those in other habitats. It was found that the squirrels near to wind farms were more likely to be jumpy, alert and to run for cover on hearing an alarm call than the squirrels that were not near turbines.
Bats Bats' roosts are protected in England, Scotland and Wales and all bats are listed as "European protected species of animals" in the Habitats Directive - as detailed on the Bat Conservation Trust website. Yet studies on the environmental impact of wind farms on bats are few and far between.
Though surprising that little research has been undertaken on a creature with such stringent protection - it is becoming apparent that much more study is needed.
Bat fatalities have been found around wind farms in the US and Europe, which may have been caused by collision with the turbines. There is also concern that bat foraging grounds may be disturbed and that the sound emitted by some turbines may interfere with bat echolocation.
Anyone considering installing a wind turbine should contact their local local bat group - (links can be found to the right). With help it should be possible to look at all considerations including:
- Spring, summer and autumn flight patterns
- Roosting sites
- Foraging grounds.
It is important that home wind power generators as well as corporate wind power system developments make these checks. Domestic wind turbines may potentially have a significant effect upon bats.
BirdsThe Dti states that no existing UK wind farms have been proved to have a detrimental impact on birdlife. They refer to surveys at a number of sites in England and Scotland which have not identified any impact on bird populations. This appears to be slightly contradicted by their later statement that impacts have been negligible in comparison to other bird fatality causes. Developers will however avoid areas where significant populations of protected birds are identified and the RSPB, (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds), will be involved in decision making.
The RSPB whilst supporting renewable energy, are careful to consider habitats and have found evidence in the US and Spain of disturbance, habitat loss and collision casualties around wind farms, (eagles are known to have flown into rotors). Proximity to migratory routes and habitat appear to give the most cause for concern.
The RSPB have objected to 76 proposals up to 2004 and voiced concerns about 129 more. One of which is the mega site proposed on Lewis which is fast becoming very controversial in many ways.
Marine lifeThe Crown Estate is funding a four-year project to assess the potential impact that sub-sea noise and vibration from wind turbines could have on marine life.
Another project completed in 2003 calculated the strength, frequencies and wavelengths of electromagnetic fields produced by the cabling needed for an offshore wind farm. The project’s second phase will measure and investigate the sensitivities of various fish species to electromagnetic fields. Further information at www.thecrownestate.co.uk.