SNH releases research results on wind turbines and geese

Three new pieces of research released by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) this week will help with more accurate – and in some cases quicker and easier – assessments of whether individual wind farm proposals will affect geese.

Scotland hosts large numbers of wintering geese, including pink-footed geese, greylag geese and species of conservation concern such as barnacle geese and Greenland white-fronted geese.

Many wind farm proposals in agricultural areas overlap with the good feeding areas for these species, which means that there is a risk of birds colliding, being displaced or being disturbed by developments. These effects need to be taken into account in many proposals, and this will involve formal Environmental Impact Assessments [EIAs].

The research being published by SNH this week takes account both of experiences with wind farms and of new information. It is designed to give developers a better understanding of the situation for improved environmental assessments.

First, SNH is issuing a review that shows how far geese fly and feed from their roost sites in Grampian. This report gives an overview of goose feeding locations and identifies potentially sensitive sites. In time, SNH plans to expand this research to all of Scotland.

SNH and the Wildlife & Wetland Trust (WWT) have also completed research illustrating where pink-footed and greylag geese feed across Scotland. This research includes maps which will help planners and developers to identify areas which are more likely to be sensitive to wind turbine developments.  These maps were drawn using data from many different sources, ranging from dedicated surveys though to records from research studies and local birdwatchers.

Assessing impacts currently involves considerable work for developers, planners and SNH. These two reports will be used to produce new SNH guidance which will help to determine sensitive areas and identify more quickly those applications that require in-depth bird assessments.

Finally, recent reviews suggest that collisions between geese and wind turbines occur less often than previously thought. In response to this new information, SNH is recommending a change in the calculation used in environmental assessments that predicts the rate of goose mortality at wind farms. This change will help to ensure that planning applications for wind farms contain more reliable estimates for the numbers of geese likely to be killed per year.

Mairi Cole, SNH Species Group Manager, said: ‘These new reports build on our scientific knowledge of geese but also take into account experiences from existing developments.  They provide an improved understanding of where developments may have impacts on our natural heritage and will provide a sound scientific basis for managing development.’

The full reports may be downloaded as follows:

Being sensitive to the implications of language, we would point out that the title of the first piece of research is skewed to the favour of consents – focusing on ‘avoidance rates’. Had it been ‘strike rates’ – another way of describing the same thing, it would have indicated a different direction of travel.

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