Environmentalists have warned that the creation of offshore wind farms poses a “potentially devastating threat to whales and dolphins”.
The report in Saturday’s edition of The Independent revealed that the noise during construction, which includes pile driving into the sea bed, could be heard by marine creatures in shallow water up to 80km away and could damage their hearing at close range.
It is also claimed by the group, The Conservation of British Cetaceans, the noise could lead to dramatic changes in behaviour at distances of up to 20km.
The report is likely to add to the debate over the proposed creation of Atlantic Array, the offshore windfarm off the coast of North Devon.
Professor Chris Parsons, of George Mason University in Virginia, US, said the main problem was the lack of independent research ahead of such projects.
The report warns that even after the initial construction, the disturbance continues with the laying of cables.
It adds that disturbances caused by service boats mean the acoustic impact continues long after the building is over.
There are currently five windfarms operating across the country – but there are seven under construction and a further 14 planned.
The £3 million Atlantic Array scheme would be the world’s largest windfarm. It is the brainchild of Farm Energy, the Westcountry company behind the London Array project in the Thames Estuary.
It would cover an area the size of the Isle of Wight and would include some of the largest wind turbines in the world, up to 150 metres high with blade diameters bigger than the wing span of a jumbo jet.
It has received widespread support – even from environmental groups such as the Devon Wildlife Trust.
Last night Peter Crone, director of Farm Energy, said: “I have heard the arguments over the interference to water-based sea creatures and it is basically true.
“However, we are restricted on when we can work to certain times of the year.
“We also begin the pile driving with a method called soft start. This enables creatures to realise that there is something going on and to leave the area.
“I have seen no evidence to suggest that the work is dangerous for water mammals – in fact, seals have gained as the pile driving has stunned fish bringing them to the surface of the water where they have been grabbed by the creatures which seemed largely unaffected by the noise.”
By Peter Harrison
20 August 2007
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