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Wind Turbines

What is the UK government's stance on wind turbines?

The UK government's plans for wind energy focus around the use of Offshore Wind - "By 2030 we plan to quadruple our offshore wind capacity so as to generate more power than all our homes use today, backing new innovations to make the most of this proven tecnnology and investing to bring new jobs and growth to our ports and coastal regions."                 

                                                                                The Energy White Paper December 2020                     

When Vattenfall’s 1.8GW Norfolk Boreas offshore wind farm was granted consent, RenewableUK’s Chief Executive Dan McGrail said: “Investing in large scale offshore wind power is good for our environment and our economy, boosting the UK’s productivity. Projects like this will help us to maintain our global lead in offshore wind as well as building up our UK-based supply chain and our exports”

"Developing markets and offshore wind will play a 

larger role in driving the global wind market".

                                                                                        Global Wind Energy Council


Are there negatives to onshore wind turbines?

Why is the government's focus on offshore turbines?

Offshore wind turbines generate electricity from wind blowing across the sea. They are considered more efficient than onshore wind farms, thanks to the higher speed of winds, greater consistency and lack of physical interference that the land or human-made objects can present.

Some people feel that onshore wind turbines spoil the landscape whilst others are not so concerned about possible visual impacts. To generate as much energy as possible they do need to be situated in an elevated position and thus do become a prominant feature.

In recent years, some conservationists have expressed concern over the use of wind turbines to produce renewable energy. Scientific reports have been published  detailing the effects that onshore turbines can have on wildlife, including death or injury by coming into contact with turbine blades.

What effects do wind turbines have on wildlife?

 According to Clive Hambler, a lecturer in biological and human sciences who teaches ecology and conservation at Oxford University "The evidence suggests that, this century at least, renewables pose a far greater threat to wildlife than climate change".

Some mammals that have been researched have not shown negative effects from living in proximity to wind turbines. i.e foxes and pine martens. Pheasants (who are not native to Britain but do have a long history of residence here) have been reported to be attracted by gravel often used at the base of turbines. However, many more mammals, birds, bats and insects have been shown to be negatively affected by turbines, the effects varying from interferring with bird calls leading to mating disruption, habitat loss, continuous high stress levels and death.         

Small mammals living in close proximity to a turbine are permanently exposed to high levels of aerodynamic broadband noise and research has shown that many show a higher level of corticosterone (stress hormone). When researched, the common vole showed a distinct physiological response − the individuals living near the wind turbines had a very high level of corticosterone. Other rodents have also been researched and the mechanical noise which consists of both high-pitched (high frequency) and buzzing sounds (low frequency) can be easily heard by them. As a consequence, animals living near turbines are exposed to episodes of sudden noise repeated many times throughout the day. Such episodes may be a significant factor increasing the level of corticosterone in the surveyed rodents because the reaction to a sudden sound is an essential element of anti-predatory behaviour of small mammals.

Research published in 2021 by the internationally renowned Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, Berlin, Germany has shown another problem with wind turbines. Flying migratory insects rise up to heights above 60 metres and then allow themselves to be transported to more remote areas before oviposition (laying of their eggs).  This process has evolved so as to enable these insects to find new environments without food competition, but they can be carried hundreds of kilometers away.
Now, however, insects can hit wind turbines at 100 metres altitude and their bodies cake the turbine blades at certain times of year. This causes a significant drop in the energy yield and requires the cleaning of the blades, at least annually, and sometimes twice each year.
Initial studies estimate that about 1200 billion migratory insects (or 3600 tons) are killed in this way in Germany alone. To give you an idea of the magnitude of this kill rate: it is about 5%. of migrating insects. The German Wildlife Foundation will be researching whether there is a correlation between the rapid expansion of wind turbines and the estimated decrease of flying insects by 75% in the last 20 years.

Image by Ian Cumming

A report published in 2017 by Warsaw University of Life Sciences found that roe deer and hares avoided wind farm interiors and a proximity of 700m to turbines. In 2016 the Wildlife Disease Association published research showing that badgers suffer chronic stress when exposed to wind turbines. The research was conducted using hair cortisol levels  to determine if the badgers were physiologically stressed. Hair of badgers living within 1 km of a wind farm had a 264% higher cortisol level than badgers living 10 km from the wind farm. The scientists concluded that the higher cortisol levels of affected badgers is caused by the turbines' sound and that these high levels may affect badgers' immune systems, which could result in increased risk of infection and disease in the badger population.

Because wind farms tend to be built on uplands, where there are good thermals, they kill a disproportionate number of raptors such as red kites and buzzards.


The ecological consequence of insect interactions with wind turbines may also effect predators hunting for insects in the area. Turbine impacts on bats has been documented since the early 2000s. In addition to direct collision with moving turbine blades, a significant proportion of fatalities may be due to barotrauma which damages tissues, particularly in the lungs and ears, by the rapid changes in air pressure near turbine blades. Indirect impacts can include habitat loss (roosts, commuting routes and foraging areas) and fragmentation.

Hirundines (swallows, sand and house martins) and swifts are also recorded hunting around wind turbines, sometimes leading to fatal consequences.

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