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New map to ease conflict between wind farms and wildlife

Last modified: 10 October 2006

Blades of wind turbine

Image: Niall Benvie

A new map indicating Scotland's most sensitive areas for building wind farms has been produced by RSPB Scotland in an effort to help developers avoid the most important areas for birds.

Presented by RSPB Scotland to the British Wind Energy Association conference in Glasgow today, it is hoped the map will help minimise the conflict between wind farms and birds of high conservation concern by helping developers avoid the most sensitive sites.

The map identifies those areas where wind farms would pose a high to medium risk for important bird populations. You can download the full report and the map by clicking on the links to the right.

'We know that the risks to protected species from windfarms can be reduced if sensitive sites are avoided'

RSPB Scotland believes that climate change represents the biggest long-term threat to birds and other wildlife, and views renewable energy technologies, including wind power, as an important part of the solution. However, we must ensure that our most important wildlife sites are not put at risk by such developments.

Jointly funded by Scottish Natural Heritage and the RSPB, the map uses the most up to date information on threatened species including red and black-throated divers, Slavonian grebe, bean goose, common scoter, red kite, white tailed eagle, hen harrier, golden eagle, peregrine falcon, black grouse, capercaillie, corncrake, golden plover, dunlin, Arctic skua and chough.

A planning aid for the future

The map is intended to help local authorities in planning for renewable energy developments. With ambitious targets being talked about for Scotland, developing a plan of where these developments can best be accommodated is vital to the successful roll-out of technologies like wind power.

Planning Policies recently consulted on by the Scottish Executive are likely to require local authorities to determine what contribution they will make to meeting Scotland's renewable energy targets. Current proposals would also require them to identify broad areas of search for the location of wind farms, as well as pinpointing the areas that should be off-limits. With the aid of the map, RSPB Scotland hopes it will make it easier for local councils to identify these areas - especially those which are important for birds - as well as helping to speed up the planning process.

Highland Council has already used the map in the production of its renewable energy strategy, and 13 other councils have requested it. John Rennilson, Head of Planning at Highland Council, said: 'We welcome all measures that put as much accurate information into the public domain to help planning decisions, and this sensitivity map was very useful in helping us to prepare our renewable energy strategy. Full disclosure of all the facts relating to the Highland area was vitally important and helped to inform decisions made by councillors.'

Reducing the risk to sensitive species

Anne McCall, head of planning for RSPB Scotland, said: 'We know that the risks to protected species from windfarms can be reduced if sensitive sites are avoided. We are optimistic that this timely research offers both local authorities and developers the kind of information that will ensure decisions can be made sensibly and swiftly.'

Rhys Bullman, of SNH, said: 'This extremely useful map utilises all the best current information that we have on the distribution of sensitive birds species throughout Scotland and will act as a useful aid to a broad range of users when determining suitable locations for renewable energy developments.' 

How you can help

Support our campaign to preserve one of the most important areas for wildlife in Scotland

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In more depth


    Bird sensitivity map (220Kb)
    Bird sensitivity map report (1.3Mb)
    To provide locational guidance for onshore wind farms in Scotland

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