Gannets Steer Clear of Offshore Wind Turbines

APEM has released a study suggesting that four times fewer Northern gannets collide with offshore wind turbines than previously thought.

The research, carried out on behalf of Vattenfall and Scottish Power Renewables, surveyed an offshore wind farm off the coast of England.

APEM used its Vulcanair Observer twin-engine aircraft to conduct four aerial surveys, with the aircraft flying at over 300m to avoid the risk of disturbing the birds.

The company’s Shearwater II camera system was utilized for high-resolution photographs during the autumn migratory season, a period when large numbers of Northern gannets are on passage off the East coast and in the southern North Sea, APEM said.

According to APEM, 336 gannets were recorded in the images in total, with only eight recorded within the wind farm area and 328 outside of it. The gannets had minimum recorded approach distances of 443m and 359m away from the nearest turbine within and outside the footprint, respectively, thus demonstrating that gannets avoid the close vicinity of wind farms.

Although it was previously believed that the avoidance factor for Northern gannets was 98%, APEM’s ornithologists believe that a more realistic factor is 99.5%. The number of gannets estimated to be at risk of collision has therefore changed from two birds per 100, to 0.5 per 100. This suggests that four times fewer Northern gannets would collide with wind turbines during the autumn passage than previously estimated.

“The findings of the survey have huge implications – not just for the population of Northern gannets, but for the future of renewable energy. The conclusions of the study, showing that fewer birds will collide with wind farms, means that earlier assessments have been overly precautionary,” Dr. Mark Rehfisch, Associate Director and Head of Ornithology at APEM, said.

“The lessened risk will mean more favourable outcomes for renewable energy firms seeking consent for wind farms, providing more opportunities for the creation of clean, renewable energy, and once again demonstrating the importance of good quality science.”

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