This week sees the launch of the Scottish Windfarm Bird Steering Group. This is a joint partnership between the Scottish Government, Scottish Natural Heritage, RSPB Scotland and four of the countries major developers of large scale windfarms: Vattenfall, RES, SSE and ScottishPower Renewables. All four of these groups will be contributing funding to the Steering Group which will be studying interactions between windfarms and bird populations.
The Scottish Windfarm Bird Steering Group will be conducting research for the next four years. For the first time data from several operational windfarms will be collated centrally for the first time. This will allow researchers to carry out in-depth study of issues such as population displacement, cumulative impact and collision risk as well as conduct a review of Scotland’s existing and extensive habitat management schemes.
Professor Colin Galbraith who will be the independent chair of the steering group will announce it’s launch tommorow at the AllEnergy conference in Aberdeen. He made the following statement:
“This new research programme is vital to help us understand the interactions between windfarms and birds across Scotland. It is particularly important, and significant, that the industry is working with the Scottish Government, SNH and RSPB to deliver this important initiative over the coming four years, which will help develop a clearer understanding of how to maintain bird populations alongside windfarms.”
Fergus Ewing, Scottish Government Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Tourism commented:
“The Scottish Government is supporting this important initiative with a view to improving understanding of the relationship between bird populations and wind farms, and it is very positive that the group is already acting as a platform for dialogue and cooperation between the wind industry, conservation groups and Government.
“By reducing uncertainty around such an important environmental issue, the group’s work is supporting a good practise agenda, and our drive for well informed decision making.”
Aedan Smith, Head of Planning and Development for RSPB Scotland stated:
“We warmly welcome the practical support shown by these four companies to the work of the Scottish Windfarm Bird Steering Group. We hope that cooperation in this area between industry, SNH, Scottish Government and ourselves will get best value from data already collected, with the ultimate aim of a quicker, safer decision-making process for birds, base don the best available evidence.”
Joss Blamire, Senior Policy Manager at trade body Scottish Renewables observed:
“Over the last few years, the renewables industry has contributed more to research on birds than any other industry. This commitment to bird conservation has been reinforced by this further contribution from these renewable energy companies.
“Having a central hub for this data means the industry is joining the dots to give researchers a fuller picture of exactly how birds interact with wind turbines.
“The Scottish Windfarm Bird Steering Group is another good example of where industry, conservation groups and government can come together to share expertise and information that will lead to an improved understanding of how we build windfarms that will coexist with our natural environment and wildlife without negatively impacting on them.”
The establishment of the Scottish Windfarm Bird Steering Group is good news for the onshore wind industry for two reasons. Firstly, the long-term nature of the study is indicative of the Scottish Government’s commitment to onshore wind. Secondly, anti-wind turbine groups have long used overinflated claims about the impact of wind turbines on bird populations in attempts to discredit developments and dampen support for the industry. Meeting such claims with hard facts and evidence is the best way to address these issues.