Call for action to reduce offshore wind impacts on wildlife
The RSPB and The Wildlife Trusts have welcomed the "Sector Deal" partnership announced on 7 March between the UK Government and the offshore wind sector. However, they called for more action to reduce impacts of offshore wind on wildlife.
The UK's offshore wind sector has already achieved astonishing growth, generating huge quantities of renewable energy. Today's sector deal shows no let-up in ambitions, with the sector set to triple in size by 2030. However, with this unprecedented growth could come unprecedented risks to marine wildlife. For instance, offshore wind farms can harm seabirds and marine mammals by displacing animals and birds from feeding areas or through collisions with turbines. These new pressures are additional to the widespread and, in some cases, long-term impacts of human activities in the marine environment. Balancing the ambitions of the offshore wind sector with the needs of marine wildlife will be essential if the sector is to be truly successful as a green industry.
The offshore wind sector is forecasted to triple in size by 2030 (Ian Mantel / commons.wikimedia.org).
The RSPB and The Wildlife Trusts have therefore welcomed the UK Government and the sector's acknowledgement of these issues within the Deal and the clear commitments to take action to address and overcome the challenges, particularly the cumulative environmental impacts. The conservation charities look forward to a constructive discussion with Government and developers to deliver positive outcomes for offshore wind and the marine environment.
Following the publication of the UK's Sector Deal for Offshore Wind, Martin Harper, the RSPB's Director of Conservation, said: "The UK's offshore wind sector is already a low carbon success story, delivering significant amounts of much needed renewable energy - and the sector looks set to grow much more. However, the UK is globally important for seabirds and other marine wildlife. Much more needs to be done to minimise risks to seabirds from offshore wind. We therefore welcome the Government's commitment to take action and work collaboratively with key stakeholders to address the environmental challenges. The Crown Estates' efforts to establish a 'strategic enabling actions programme' will be a key element of this work.
"We hope this signals a new chapter of greater collaboration and a collective commitment to address these unprecedented challenges in a way that delivers a truly sustainable offshore green energy sector in harmony with nature."
Joan Edwards, Director of Public Affairs and Living Seas at The Wildlife Trusts, added: "The offshore wind sector is the fastest growing of all marine industries. And while we welcome the sector deal's ambitious aims to take a more strategic approach, we must ensure that impacts of individual projects and both the cumulative and in-combination effects are appropriately assessed. We believe that there is space for the right technology, in the right place, but our advances to produce green energy should not be at the expense of our wildlife."
Vast numbers of seabirds, including Northern Gannet, either breed or are resident in British waters (Jon Mercer).