An Ill Wind for Birds
It is vital that the right measures are put in place to protect wildlife and the environment. But sometimes our efforts to address one problem can have an adverse effect on another. There is no better example of this than the planned new wind farms for Scotland. These installations have pitted two lobbies against each other, both of which are passionately committed to the environment.
The enormous wind farms which are planned for the Firth of Forth and Firth of Tay will deliver renewable wind energy and are backed by the Scottish Government. They could generate enough power to supply 1.4 million homes. So, what’s wrong with that? The RSPB claims that the turbines will threaten many of the country’s best-loved seabirds.
In 2014, the RSPB won a landmark victory when a senior judge, Lord Stewar, upheld its appeal against the development of the wind farms. But now that decision has been reversed, reigniting the argument. Stuart Houseden, the director of RSPB Scotland said:
"We are hugely disappointed by today’s judgment. Whilst we fully support deployment of renewable energy, this must not be at any cost. Combined, these four huge projects threaten to kill thousands of Scotland’s internationally protected seabirds every year, including thousands of puffins, gannets and kittiwakes. These could be amongst the most deadly wind farms for birds anywhere in the world."
Lethal to Seabirds
The RSPB is certain that the scale of the projects will make the sites lethal to birds. Puffins will stop feeding around them and there are few alternative sites for these birds to adopt. The puffins will be starved of their food sources and the population will shrink dramatically. Gannets and kittiwakes will be threatened by the length of the turbines’ blades.
The Benefits of Wind Farms
The wind farms will help Scotland and therefore the UK to meet climate change goals and will create 100 permanent jobs. On one day in August last year, Scottish wind turbines generated more power than was used in the entire country that day. In 2016, 52% of Scotland’s electricity was created from renewable resources. Renewable energy is now a significant feature of the Scottish economy and so the RSPB may have a serious battle on its hands.
The RSPB is thought to be studying the latest judgement with a view to making a further appeal to the UK supreme court. The organisation has not ruled out an appeal to the European courts either as its original case hinged on European legislation designed to protect seabird colonies. They are determined that new developments in renewable energy should not be made when the potential impact on wildlife is so great. The organisation believes that there are many alternative sites for the turbines which would prevent less threat to the seabirds.
Seabirds and Tourism
To complicate the argument further, The RSPB has pointed out that any impact on seabirds could also affect the economy as they are important for tourism. With more than 1000 gannets predicted to perish in the turbines every year along with similar numbers of kittiwakes, that impact is potentially severe.
This is a battle which could rage for some time and there are no easy answers to the conundrum.