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The lessons we need to learn from Norwegian wind farms

A Norwegian sea eagle found dead at the Smøla site. Image: Espen Lie Dahl

Fosen, in Norway, is home to Europe’s largest onshore wind farm project, which was completed in summer 2020. The complex is made up of 6 wind farms, with a total nameplate capacity of 1.06 GW. But while Norway are pushing forward with wind energy, the expansion of the wind energy sector brings with it a major problem.

Data from Norway shows that at Fosen in 2019 and 2020, five Sea Eagles were killed after colliding with wind turbines. This, of course, is just the birds that were discovered dead and then reported.

Before Fosen was built, Smøla had been Norway’s largest land-based wind farm. The island of Smøla lies off Norway’s West coast, and the exposed coastline is an ideal habitat for Sea Eagles – with a recorded stable population of 50 pairs. This is the densest population of Sea Eagles in Norway; so perhaps it comes as no surprise that the Sea Eagles and the wind farm have come into conflict. The Norwegian Ornithological Society (NOF) state that the Smøla wind farm has killed 108 Sea Eagles and 3 Golden Eagles.

The Norwegian Ornithological Society argue that the wind power in Norway is “a story of irresponsible and failing management, where the welfare of nature is neglected”. They argue that the Norwegian government have allowed windfarms to be built in areas with high potential for conflict between turbines and birds – adding that Eagle Owls are also affected.

This, of course, all applies to Norway. But surely we would be stupid to not learn lessons from others – and particularly from a country which, particularly in the case of much of the North of England and Scotland, is not dissimilar to our own country in terms of climate and nature. But still the obsession with wind energy continues, with little regard for wildlife and nature. As we reported last week, although the RSPB are opposing a large wind-farm off the Yorkshire Coast, claiming it will impact on the breeding of the large seabird colony, they have a wind energy plant at their own headquarters in Bedfordshire, and readily take advertising from wind energy firm Ecotricity.

It is particularly odd that the RSPB passively promote wind energy, simply because of the birds most at risk from wind turbines. The ones most frequently killed or injured are large birds and raptors – like the Sea Eagles, Golden Eagle, Osprey and even Eagle Owl mentioned in Norway; species that are both slow to reproduce and, more often than not, mate for life. These are the exact same species that people work so hard to encourage in Scotland and the uplands of England. Sea Eagles (also referred to as white-tailed eagles) make the headlines when they are spotted in Yorkshire and Norfolk and, in December, over Coulsdon (having been reintroduced on the Isle of Wight).

In fact, in a strange twist of irony, the sea eagles reintroduced in Scotland came, originally, from Norway. How sad for them if we are unable to learn the lessons that the Norwegian wind farms have clearly outlined for us.


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