Resource Documents: Scotland (28 items)
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Author: James W. Pearce-Higgins, James; Stephen, Leigh; Langston, Rowena; Bainbridge, Ian; and Bullman, Rhys
1. There is an urgent need for climate change mitigation, of which the promotion of renewable energy, such as from wind farms, is an important component. Birds are expected to be sensitive to wind farms, although effects vary between sites and species. Using data from 12 upland wind farms in the UK, we examine whether there is reduced occurrence of breeding birds close to wind farm infrastructure (turbines, access tracks and overhead transmission lines). To our knowledge, this is the first such multi-site comparison examining wind farm effects on the distribution of breeding birds.
2. Bird distribution was assessed using regular surveys during the breeding season. We took a conservative analytical approach, with bird occurrence modelled as a function of habitat, before examining the additional effects of wind farm proximity.
3. Seven of the 12 species studied exhibited significantly lower frequencies of occurrence close to the turbines, after accounting for habitat variation, with equivocal evidence of turbine avoidance in a further two. No species were more likely to occur close to the turbines. There was no evidence that raptors altered flight height close to turbines. Turbines were avoided more strongly than tracks, whilst there was no evidence for consistent avoidance of overhead transmission lines connecting sites to the national grid.
4. Levels of turbine avoidance suggest breeding bird densities may be reduced within a 500-m buffer of the turbines by 15–53%, with buzzard Buteo buteo, hen harrier Circus cyaneus, golden plover Pluvialis apricaria, snipe Gallinago gallinago, curlew Numenius arquata and wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe most affected.
5. Despite being a correlative study, with potential for Type I error, we failed to detect any systematic bias in our likelihood of detecting significant effects.
6. Synthesis and applications. This provides the first evidence for consistent and significant effects of wind farms on a range of upland bird species, emphasizing the need for a strategic approach to ensure such development avoids areas with high densities of potentially vulnerable species. Our results reduce the uncertainty over the magnitude of such effects, and will improve future environmental impacts assessments.
Journal of Applied Ecology 2009, 46, 1323–1331
Download original document: “The distribution of breeding birds around upland wind farms”
Author: National Health Service Shetland
“It is generally accepted that the primary effect of low frequency noise on people is annoyance. Annoyance is recognised as a critical health effect, and is associated in some people with stress, sleep disturbance, and interference with daily living. There is an increasing body of evidence that noise levels associated with wind farms cause annoyance, in a dose-related response. … A range of symptoms are attributed to the noise of wind turbines in people living close to them, which are those associated with general environmental noise exposure, and are often also described as stress symptoms. They include headache, irritability, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, dizziness, anxiety, and sleep disturbance, and are often described in relation to annoyance. … [I]t is recognised that low level noise from wind turbines is more often found to cause annoyance than similar levels from other sources. Some consider that the common cause of complaints from wind farms is not associated with low frequency noise but with the audible modulation of the aerodynamic noise, especially at night. There is also evidence that some people perceive the low frequency noise components of wind turbine noise, and that these are more significant at night and with large wind turbines. … Regardless of whether the perceived impacts of noise from wind farms are physiological or psychological in nature, they are considered to cause adverse health effects through sleep disturbance, reducing the quality of life and as a source of annoyance which sometimes leads to stress related symptoms. … Conclusions: Wind turbines are known to cause a number of effects that have an impact on health: risks from ice throw and structural failures that are minimised by appropriate setback distances; noise and shadow flicker that are sources of annoyance, sleep disturbance and symptoms of stress in some people. Current mitigations do not entirely deal with the annoyance caused by wind farms, the results of which are a cause of distress and related ill health for a number of people living in the vicinity.”
Download original document: “Report on the Health Impacts of Wind Farms”
Author: World Council for Nature
The fatal impact of a white-throated needletail with a wind turbine in Scotland (1) raises serious concerns, with ramifications far beyond the sad loss of a single, spectacular vagrant. As a rare visitor, this individual bird was being very carefully observed, and thus there was a far higher chance of a turbine impact being detected than is the case for most small birds. Only a minuscule fraction of birds are intensively monitored in this way, and if the movements and fates of many other individual birds were being monitored, then what appears to be a rare event might prove to be frequent – or indeed probable. The death of this needletail should remind us that numerous small birds are being hit by turbines without detection or raising alarm. However, other hirundine deaths have already been documented amongst Europe’s wind turbines (2).
The needletail encountered a small, lone turbine. On the face of it, this is highly unlikely – unless the bird was actively attracted to the vicinity of the turbine. Indeed, some insects are attracted to wind turbines, and some bats are attracted to their deaths by unknown features of the turbines – possibly the food concentration around them (3, 4, 5). Remarkably, there are reports of bats commuting to wind turbines up to 14 km offshore for such food resources, as well as others stopping, perching and feeding around them during migration (4). This attraction exerted by wind turbines extends their ecological footprint to new, unsuspected dimensions.
We hypothesise that hirundines (including swifts, swallows, martins, swiftlets and needletails) might also be attracted to insects flying around these machines – onshore and offshore. Indeed, awareness has already been raised about the potential attraction of insectivorous birds to wind turbines (5). Reports (5, 6) that hirundines can comprise a third of turbine victims in Sweden and are being killed by domestic microturbines in Britain merit further investigation. Another consideration is that certain landscape features and air flows might attract both wind farm developers and hirundines, putting them on a collision course as they do with raptors.
We propose that wind turbines, let alone wind farms, may create extensive population sinks which could deplete and exterminate populations of birds and bats. We doubt the woeful amount of independent monitoring of turbine impacts would be capable of detecting this threat in most regions or for most species.
In the circumstances, a precautionary approach would be particularly appropriate in areas with populations of already threatened endemic hirundines, bats and other species – as in Seychelles or the Mascarenes for instance. For such areas, irreversible global extinction might be caused by wind turbines, yet even the highest standards of monitoring (including videos and radio transmitters) might be insufficient to alert us in time. We predict the extinction legacy of wind turbines will become an increasing source of concern, as ecological traps are set in vast numbers across the planet.
Clive Hambler (Lecturer in Biological and Human Sciences, Hertford College, University of Oxford)
Mark Duchamp (President, Save the Eagles International; Chair, World Council for Nature)
(2) – Photos of a sample of bird fatalities due to wind farms, including hirundines, from the Save the Eagles International website: http://savetheeagles.wordpress.com/birdkill-pictures/
– More pictures of birds killed by wind turbines may be seen here: http://savetheeaglesinternational.org/multimedia/
– And there are many more.
(3) – Video monitoring of bats flying between turbine blades, showing some getting struck: http://www.epaw.org/multimedia.php?article=b6
(4) – “We recorded 11 species (of a community of 18 species) flying over the ocean up to 14 km from the shore.” Ahlén, I. et al. (2009). Behaviour of Scandinavian bats during migration and foraging at sea. Journal of Mammology, 90, 1318-1323
– “The bats did not avoid the turbines. On the contrary they stayed for shorter or longer periods hunting close to the windmills because of the accumulation of flying insects. Hunting close to the blades was observed, why the risk of colliding might be comparable to land-based turbines. Bats also used wind turbines for resting. Insects were collected at places and times when bats were observed feeding.” Ahlén, I. et al. (2007). Bats and offshore wind turbines studied in southern Scandinavia. Swedish Environmental Protection Agency. Report 5571. http://www.naturvardsverket.se/Documents/publikationer/620-5571-2.pdf
(5) – “Increased risks depend on insect hunting (swifts, swallows), carrion search (crows, ravens, some raptors), and hangwind gliding (red kites, eagles, and buzzards).” – Ahlén, I. (2010). Fågelarter funna under vindkraftverk i Sverige. Var Fågelvärld, 4/2010, 8-12 http://www.slu.se/PageFiles/8390/artiklar/BirdsWindPowerVF2010.pdf
– Long, C. V. et al. (2011). Insect attraction to wind turbines: does colour play a role? European Journal of Wildlife Research, 57, 323-331 http://peer.ccsd.cnrs.fr/docs/00/62/51/48/PDF/PEER_stage2_10.1007%252Fs10344-010-0432-7.pdf
(6) – “Almost one third of the birds (killed) were swallows and swifts, species that like bats hunt flying insects”. Ahlén, I. (2002). Wind turbines and bats – a pilot study. Report to Swedish National Energy Association. http://publikationer.slu.se/Filer/08WindBatFinalReport.pdf
Author: Jackson, Aileen
Dear Mr Lang
We are the Jackson Family (Aileen, William, Andrew and Brian). We have lived here for 28 years and always enjoyed excellent relations with our immediate neighbours and other landowners in the area until March 2010 when a Proven 35-2 (15m hub height, 15kw) turbine, the first of three granted planning permission, was erected by our neighbour 300m from our house, 600m from his own property.
Within days we realised we had a problem with noise every time the prevailing wind turned the turbine to face our house (depending on wind speed, it could sound like anything from a diesel engine ticking over to a helicopter or a washing machine on spin). The noise was clearly audible with the windows shut, particularly in two of our bedrooms, conservatory and bathroom. We were unable to sleep, causing us to move to other rooms in the house to gain respite from the noise. In warm weather, forced to keep our windows shut, we overheated. We informed our neighbours who agreed the noise was much worse than they had anticipated but unfortunately no help from them was forthcoming and in desperation we contacted Environmental Health which led to a deterioration in our previous excellent relationship.
Environmental Health were very sympathetic. Our EHO installed a Matron* to record the noise in our bedroom, made frequent visits to our home and confirmed the noise was audible in our house with our double glazed windows firmly shut. Unfortunately EH did not have the equipment or the expertise to confirm whether it was breaking the planning condition of 35dB or background +5db (whichever is the greater) but they were certain that it was.
East Renfrewshire Council put pressure on the Agents to commission noise testing, by refusing to accept any further applications for that particular type of turbine and 7 months after installation we were visited by a consultancy of noise experts (allegedly) on behalf of the turbine manufacturer. They tested for only 2 hours in the wrong location at the wrong time of day and tied a plastic carrier bag around the noise testing equipment. This rustled in the wind raising background noise levels and as a result they arrived at the conclusion that “the turbine made little or no noise”. Having taken pictures of the aforementioned “plastic bag” and consulted our own acoustician Dick Bowler regarding their methodology, he prepared a report which was sent to Environmental Health who refused to accept the outcome of the test. It took a further 4 months for the manufacturers of the turbine to commission another company to monitor the noise at our property. The consultant was only available to attend on four occasions, none of which being when the noise was at its worst. He concluded in his report that the noise was 4.4dB above background, 0.6dB below the condition (9 dB above background at low wind speeds when it did not quite reach the 35dB limit) and therefore although the two other turbines with planning consent could not be erected, this one would be allowed to remain.
We were distraught. Two members of the family were on medication and one moved out.
As planning applications were resubmitted, there was a great increase in the number of objections as many local residents were now aware of the noise from this one erected turbine. It was at this time we began to experience some disturbing incidents ranging from vandalism to threats. We discovered that other objectors were suffering the same kind of treatment and as a result a number reluctantly gave up submitting objections as they feared for their family’s safety as well as the effect on their businesses/careers/friendships.
The flurry of applications were all refused again on noise grounds but after further resubmission with different, quieter models of turbines, repositioning and appeals, most were eventually consented. An appeal by neighbours against the refusal of planning permission
for three P35-2s, 500m from our house, which was refused by Councillors on noise grounds was allowed by a Reporter after a public hearing, despite us already suffering a noise nuisance, neighbours giving evidence that the one already erected beside our house could be heard at up to 1250m and the acoustic consultant who assessed the noise at our house admitting that the Matron in our bedroom failed to record , the data had been flawed by the noise from the cows in our neighbour’s cow sheds, he had not managed to attend to test the noise by turning the turbine on/off when the noise was at its worst despite my emails and texts and there was no accurate assessment of background noise at our property on which to base his conclusions! None of this had been mentioned in his report which had already been accepted by the Council. The Reporter informed us that he wished to hear the noise in our bedroom himself and that he would return on a day when the wind direction was favourable. He failed to return despite my phone call to DPEA. He concluded in his Decision that a further 2.5dB from the proposed development would not have a further adverse effect on our residential amenity.
We were left in a desperate situation where greatly against our will, we had no option but to take our neighbours to court to force the removal of the turbine which was causing us most problems. After seeking legal advice, we first of all approached our neighbours in an attempt to come to a compromise. After seeking advice themselves, they are cooperating with us and we are in the process of identifying an alternative site for the turbine which will be of benefit to us noise wise and not too costly for both ourselves and our neighbours.
Since the outcome of the appeal, landowners in the area have grown in confidence, with the certainty that even if their applications are refused by POs and Councillors, they will be allowed at Appeal. The number of applications has increased so dramatically that the local authority cannot cope. Landowners, not happy with one turbine are submitting applications for up to three at a time and singularly thereafter as this increases their chance of approval and lessens the likelihood of needing a full EIA assessment. With those already consented, there is no window in our house which will not have a view of turbines. More applications arrive on a weekly basis and shortly it will not just be Uplawmoor which disappears under turbines but the whole of East Renfrewshire as ERC has outlined 34.7% of ER’s greenbelt for windfarm development. The rest of the greenbelt appears to be earmarked for vast housing developments in Newton Mearns.
Our once peaceful and happy family life has been destroyed, our health and financial situation has deteriorated and good neighbourly relationships are a thing of the past. It has split the community apart, putting strain on once firm friendships and dividing families and I see no respite from the misery inflicted upon us and other communities in similar positions.
*A Matron is a noise nuisance measuring instrument that records sound but does not measure noise levels in decibels. It is used by Environmental Health to establish if there is a justified complaint.