Just over 97% of a specific species of geese altered course, following construction of the UK’s Lynn and Inner Dowsing offshore wind farms and avoided the risk of turbine collisions, concludes an innovative four-year research project.
The project aimed to discover whether migrating pink-footed geese were at a significant risk from the two wind farms. The results suggest that they are not. The vast majority of birds responded "to an offshore wind farm by adopting avoidance behaviour". This involved either "horizontal" amendments to flight course or an increase in altitude.
Combining 24-hour radar surveillance and day-time field monitoring, the research results may assist offshore wind developers in assuring regulators that proposed developments will not pose unacceptable risks to the species.
But the findings are not applicable to other bird species, whose "avoidance rates" may differ. Further research into the behaviour of other species is recommended by the project’s leaders, who have published their findings in the Journal of Applied Ecology.
Funded by energy firm Centrica, the research was conducted between 2007 and 2010, by staff at the UK Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera). Centrica owns the Lynn and Inner Dowsing offshore wind farms and its offshore wind pipeline includes the Lincs, Race Bank and Rhiannon projects.
Last month, Centrica’s proposal to build Docking Shoal off the north Norfolk coast was blocked. Concerns about cumulative impacts on a protected bird species, the sandwich tern, were cited.
Speaking with Windpower Offshore, Fera’s Andy Baxter explained that the organisation is keen to make use of its radar-based technique at sites further from shore, including Round 3 development zones. It already undertakes 20-30 weeks a year of radar monitoring of bird strikes at UK airports, as well those at on- and offshore wind farms.
Fera is in negotiations with more than one offshore wind developer, about future applications of radar, added Baxter. "All monitoring techniques have their limitations, but radar is a technology that warrants further investigation and use in offshore wind applications."