Onshore wind energy construction and operation can have significant negative effects on local and regional biodiversity, according to a report released by the Queen’s University Belfast.
A Review of the Impacts of Onshore Wind Energy Development on Biodiversity looked at the affect of onshore wind energy development on wildlife in Northern Ireland, and warned that mortality from wind farm collisions could put scarce species at even greater risk.
Renewable electricity currently represents nearly 19% of total electricity consumption, with a target of 40% by 2020.
At present, there are 34 operational onshore wind energy developments comprised of more than one turbine in Northern Ireland, with a total of 313 turbines and a capacity of 533.10MW.
There are also 38 single turbines operating with a capacity of 15.61MW.
A further 291 wind energy developments are consented (35 wind developments involving more than one turbine and 258 single turbines); consisting of 486 turbines with a capacity of 598.12MW (82.77MW from single turbine developments).
The report revealed birds of prey – particularly soaring species – were notably vulnerable to collision with rotating blades and direct mortality, while other aerial species may be vulnerable to barrier effects and/or displacement.
According to the report’s authors, an increasing body of evidence also indicates that wind energy developments can have a negative effect on bats, which are more vulnerable than previously thought.