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Wind farm by Tommy Holden / BTO
Wind farm by Tommy Holden / BTO

Understanding the impacts of wind farms on birds


The BTO has been providing advice about the potential ornithological impacts of renewable energy schemes since the 1980s, both within the UK and overseas. This has included leading work to assess the impacts of proposed tidal schemes on the Severn and Mersey estuaries. More recently, wind farms, both onshore and offshore, have been a focus of our work. This has involved working closely with government, industry and other stakeholders in order to build a robust evidence base with which to assess the impacts of wind farms on birds. In addition to applied research, the BTO carries out Impact Assessment work through its commercial arm, Combined Ecology.

BTO was responsible for the ornithological EIA for the recently consented projects within the Dogger Bank Offshore Wind Farm Zone. At present, this is the largest area of wind development planned anywhere in the world. As such, the site presented some unique challenges for impact assessment. To solve these, the BTO developed a novel analytical approach, combining data from digital aerial surveys and more traditional boat surveys in order to generate robust population estimates for the suite of species using the site (Johnston et al. 2015).

Wind farms are seen as a key component of attempts to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and mitigate the impacts of climate change. However, concerns remain about their impact on the environment, particularly in relation to birds. BTO scientists have been working to improve our understanding of the impacts of wind farms on birds in order to help minimise any negative effects. A Research Note, published by BTO and Combined Ecology, highlights key projects that our researchers have been involved in which have helped to improve our knowledge of the interactions between birds and wind farms.

Read the full Research Note.