The findings of a twenty year-long research project has revealed that golden eagles in proximity to the Beinn an Tuirc windfarm in Scotland are thriving, throwing a spanner in the works for anyone who claims wind farms and wind turbines are inherently dangerous to birds.
In 1997, during the planning process for the 30 MW Beinn an Tuirc windfarm located in Argyll and Bute, Scotland, developer ScottishPower Renewables, a subsidiary of Spanish multinational electric utility Iberdrola, instigated a project, run by ecological consultancy Natural Research Projects, to safeguard a golden eagle breeding territory identified there. In the twenty years since the project began, the same female golden eagle has occupied the Beinn an Tuirc, joined in 2007 by her current mate, who have since fledged six chicks which, according to ScottishPower Renewables, is a substantially improved breeding performance. In 2007, it was widely reported across UK news outlets of the successful rearing of two chicks at the site.
In fact, senior ecologists commenting on the project have confirmed that the resident golden eagles are actually among the most successful breeders in the Kintyre region over recent years, with the presence of the wind farms in the area appearing to have had no appreciable impact, negative or otherwise, on the birds.
Further, one of the pair’s offspring is now nesting close to another ScottishPower Renewables wind farm, the 30 MW Cruach Mhor windfarm in Cowal.
“This has been a fascinating project to work on over the last 20 years,” said Iain Mackenzie, an ecologist at Natural Research Projects. “We’ve learned much about how golden eagles interact with windfarms, and the project has highlighted how careful planning can allow renewable energy projects to co-exist positively with upland wildlife. Chicks fledged from near the Beinn an Tuirc windfarm are helping to ensure that these iconic birds continue to occupy the Scottish uplands.”
“Two decades ago, when ScottishPower Renewables began planning Beinn an Tuirc windfarm, we knew the protection of local golden eagles would be a key priority for our ecology team,” explained Peter Robson, Senior Ecologist at ScottishPower Renewables. “We’re proud to see the outstanding results of that project and to play our part in sustaining the Kintyre golden eagle population for years to come. After 20 years, our ecology team feel it’s time to move monitoring on to other projects but thanks to ongoing bird tracking, we’ll continue to see the growth of this particular golden eagle family.”
“This study is a good example of a windfarm operator taking its responsibilities to the surrounding wildlife seriously and we need to see more long term studies of this sort taking place at operational windfarms across Scotland,” added Aedán Smith, Head of Planning and Development at RSPB Scotland. “Windfarms are a vital part of tackling climate change but they must be carefully sited to ensure that they pose as minimal a risk to wildlife and important habitats as possible, and that they are monitored to ensure any unforeseen impacts are identified and resolved.”
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