Scottish renewables industry boosts bird research

A new research fund to help better understand the interaction between wind farms and bird populations

Four of Scotland's largest developers of renewable energy have teamed up with Scottish Natural Heritage, RSPB Scotland and the Scottish Government to invest in a new research fund to help better understand the interaction between wind farms and bird populations.

Vattenfall, RES, SSE and ScottishPower Renewables have made a significant contribution to a new programme of research to be carried out under the aegis of the Scottish Windfarm Bird Steering Group (SWBSG), which will officially be launched at the All-Energy Conference in Aberdeen on Thursday (23 May). The new funds will be added to earlier contributions from Scottish Government, SNH and RSPB and will help the group reach their target of £450,000 to support data gathering and research over the next four years.

The proposed research goes beyond the mandatory requirements of Environmental Impact Assessment, and aims to make the best use of data gathered by developers and operators of medium and large wind farms following construction.

The SWBSG aims, for the first time, to collate all of this important data into a central hub in order to commission researchers and academics to expand our understanding of the interaction between bird populations and wind farms in Scotland.

Aedan Smith, Head of Planning and Development for RSPB Scotland, said: "We warmly welcome the practical support shown by these four companies to the work of the Scottish Windfarm Bird Steering Group. We hope that co-operation 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, based on the best available evidence."

Senior Policy Manger for the industry representative body, Scottish Renewables, Joss Blamire, said: "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 renewables energy developers.

"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 wind farms that will coexist with our natural environment and wildlife without negatively impacting on them."

Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Tourism Fergus Ewing said: "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 organisations and Government.

"By reducing uncertainty around such an important environmental issue, the group's work is supporting our good practice agenda, and our drive for well-informed decision making."

The Scottish Windfarm Bird Steering Group, which consists of Scottish Renewables, RSPB Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage, Scottish Government, Vattenfall, RES, SSE, ScottishPower Renewables is led by an independent chair, Professor Colin Galbraith

Professor Galbraith will officially launch the new research programme at the All-Energy conference in Aberdeen on Thursday 23 May which, over the next four years, will investigate collision risk, displacement and cumulative impacts as well as reviewing Scotland's extensive habitats management schemes which are implemented by wind farm operators.

Professor Galbraith commented: "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 wind farms".

It is intended that the results of the research will help inform the Scottish Government and Scottish Natural Heritage on how future monitoring is conducted and what guidance is produced to wind farm developers.

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