Vattenfall says research carried out at the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre (EOWC) at Aberdeen has shown that seabird species take effective action to avoid wind farms.
Radar tracked birds flying towards the wind farm, which activated cameras and generated three-dimensional flight tracks and video footage. This was used to identify the species of bird as they moved through the wind farm and monitor whether they altered their flight path around the turbines. Research was focused on seabird flight behaviour during the breeding period and post-breeding period (April-October) when bird densities were highest in the Aberdeen area
Data about the flying patterns of kittiwakes, herring gulls, black-backed gulls and gannets found that:
• No collisions or narrow escapes were recorded in over 10,000 bird videos.
• Nearly all species avoided the zone of the turbine blades by adjusting their flight paths to fly in between the turbines.
• Of the birds that came within 10 m of the zone swept by the blades, more than 96% adjusted their flight paths to avoid collision, often by flying parallel to the plane of the rotor.
The research also revealed different patterns of behaviour for different species of birds. Kittiwakes displayed avoidance behaviour from around 150m from the rotors, commuting herring gulls from around 100m and feeding herring gulls from 70m. In general, gannets and small and large gulls showed a strong tendency to avoid flying into the area swept by the turbine blades.
Vattenfall says the research benefitted from advice from the RSPB and a panel of experts from NatureScot, Joint Nature Conservation Committee and Marine Scotland Science and the results could help speed up wind farm consents by providing more accurate information about the risk of bird collisions using realistic values for flight speed, orientation and altitude.