This new windfarm predicts it will kill a long list of birds – so where's the uproar?
Wind turbines are one of the angels of green energy. They have their detractors of course; they’re ugly eyesores, some people moan. Others, who live nearby wind farms, complain of headaches, sleep problems and tinnitus. In fact, despite many medics saying there is no proof that wind turbines cause health problems, it has become so highly reported that there’s even an official term for this: “wind-turbine syndrome”.
But the other problem that wind turbines bring with them is the dangers they cause to bird life and other wildlife – such a bats. It’s well accepted that soaring birds with large wing spans and giant carbon fibre blades swinging through the air don’t tend to work well together. Just last week, a plan to build a new windfarm consisting of 8 turbines in Peebleshire was halted, after two golden eagles were spotted. The farm was due to be installed in an area very close to where the south of Scotland golden eagle introduction has been ongoing.
But more significant than that is a document recently published by developers in Wales, who have submitted planning to install a 17 turbine wind farm consisting of some of Britain's tallest wind turbines at 150m – just shy of 500ft. Called the Garn Fach Wind Farm, the turbines are so tall they will be visible across most of upland Powys, and right across the Shropshire Hills. Not only this, but the wind farm is so big that a new power line, hub, and pylon route will need to be constructed to transport the energy.
The good news is that the developers have had to undertake a survey of what impact these turbines might have on local birdlife – known as Collision Risk Modelling, or CRM. It is accepted that birds and turbines aren’t the best of friends; in Norway for example where wind energy is popular, between 6 and 9 white-tailed eagles are killed annually at the Smøla wind-power plant – a 68 turbine farm which covers 18 square kilometres of inland Norway.
So what of the Welsh survey? The CRM covers both an annual collision count and an expected total over 30 years, which we’ve included below. Over thirty years, it’s predicted that 236 Golden Plover and nearly 80 Red Kites will be killed by the farm, around twenty Kestrels, and a few Peregrines and perhaps a Goshawk. A total of over 400 birds would be knocked on the head by these turbines in their 30-year lifespan.
Those are some quite impressive numbers for just 8 turbines – particularly given the amount of work and money which has been invested in reintroducing Red Kites to the UK and boosting their numbers to the population we see today, only for them to be executed by a wind turbine.
But one final thing to bear in mind is the strange affinity that the RSPB – that is, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (PROTECTION!) – have for wind turbines. In fact, they are so keen on them that they have their own turbine at their Bedfordshire headquarters, Sandy Lodge. It measures 100m and the RSPB said at the time that they were "confident that the wind turbine will have no major impacts on populations of birds, bats and other plants and animals."
It's interesting to note, too, that the RSPB turbine was built by Ecotricity, self-proclaimed as "Britain's greenest energy supplier". As a regular advertiser in the RSPB's in-house magazine, we can only wonder just what financial benefit the RSPB gain from this handy relationship. What next, a wind farm at RSPB Geltsdale?