Offshore Wind Turbines have Positive Impact on Wildlife, Biodiversity
August 14, 2011
It is the evidence proponents of offshore wind farms have been waiting for: a Dutch study has found that offshore wind turbines have “hardly any negative effects” on wildlife, and may even benefit animals living beneath the waves.
The researchers reached their conclusions after studying a wind farm near Windpark Egmond aan Zee, the first large-scale offshore wind farm built off the Dutch North Sea coast.
Anti-wind farm campaigners have often argued that wind farms can have a negative impact on bird populations, while some critics have voiced concerns that offshore wind farms could prove disruptive to marine life.
However, Professor Han Lindeboom from the Institute for Marine Resources and Ecosystem Studies at Wageningen University and Research centre, said that the new study revealed little evidence of negative effects on local wildlife.
“At most, a few bird species will avoid such a wind farm. It turns out that a wind farm also provides a new natural habitat for organisms living on the sea bed such as mussels, anemones and crabs, thereby contributing to increased biodiversity,” he said.
“For fish and marine mammals, it provides an oasis of calm in a relatively busy coastal area.”
This, of course, is not the first study to show that offshore wind is benign.
Uncertainty surrounding wind power’s impact on wildlife–particularly the potential for deadly collisions between birds and turbines–has tarnished its image and even delayed some wind farms. Indeed, the first large offshore wind farm proposed for U.S. waters–the Cape Windproject in Massachusetts’s Nantucket Sound–has been held up in part by concerns that its 130 turbines could kill thousands of seabirds annually. Now a simple infrared collision-detection system developed by Denmark’s National Environmental Research Institute is helping clear the air.
The Thermal Animal Detection System (TADS) is essentially a heat-activated infrared video camera that watches a wind turbine around the clock, recording deadly collisions much as a security camera captures crimes. The first results, released this winter as part of a comprehensive $15 million study of Denmark’s large offshore wind farms, show seabirds to be remarkably adept at avoiding offshore installations. “There had been suggestions that enormous numbers of birds would be killed,” says Robert Furness, a seabird specialist at the University of Glasgow, who chaired the study’s scientific advisory panel. “There’s a greater feeling now among European politicians that marine wind farms are not going to be a major ecological problem, and therefore going ahead with construction is not going to raise lots of political difficulties.”