Wind energy is considered one of the foundations of the renewable energy field. Both onshore and offshore wind energy are increasing across the globe, with many nations focusing heavily on offshore wind due to the nature of their nations. One such location focusing heavily on offshore wind in the United Kingdom.
As their offshore wind industry grows and expands farther out to sea, many bird conservation groups in the UK have been concerned. Groups are especially concerned regarding the impact the turbines will have on an array of bird species, including migrating species, as they try to cross waterways. Now a new study indicates that at least one particular migrating bird species, pink-footed geese, may be generally avoiding the turbines as a means of coping.
The study, which was recently published in the Journal of Applied Ecology, took place over approximately four years on the eastern seaboard of England. Researchers from the Food and Environment Research Agency studied the routes the pink-footed geese took as construction began on two offshore wind farms in Skegness in 2007 and ended in 2010 when the farms were in operation.
One the greatest concerns for the pink-footed geese was that they were known to migrate at night, a potential issue with turbines present. Overall, the study analyzed approximately 40,000 of the geese during the four years and found a drastic increase in avoidance of the wind farm region- likely lessening population impacts.
The choice of route by the migrating birds was found to have changed in order to avoid the two wind farms. Flocks of the pink-footed geese which had routes around the wind farm region had increased during the four years from fifty-two percent to eighty-one percent. In addition, the researchers determined that the geese which did not alter course around the wind farms increased the height at which they flew ninety percent of the time. Both courses show that the birds were likely avoiding the newly perceived threat or obstacle in general.
The UK has a strong population of pink-footed geese so the research findings were seen as a positive adaptation by the species, likely ensuring survival. The researchers believe that many other UK species will likely be able to change habits to coincide with the increasing presence of wind turbines. However, the study was limited to only one species and cannot be used as a litmus test for others. Studies continue to be performed in order to better understand how bird species interact with wind turbines, however, the field is new.