THE impact of wind turbines on bird populations needs much greater examination, Birdwatch Ireland has told wind energy companies.
Oonagh Duggan, the group’s head of advocacy, said there was a danger that if there was conflict between wind energy and wildlife, then the benefits of renewable energy would be undermined.
“We're very serious about climate change but we have to remember, we’re not just in a climate crisis, we’re in a biodiversity crisis,” she said.
Ms Duggan was addressing the Wind Energy Ireland conference where she said Birdwatch was having to object to some wind farms because of the poor quality of wildlife surveys accompanying planning applications.
The group’s scientists had developed a bird wind sensitivity mapping tool for onshore turbines but it was not being widely used.
They had also carried out a feasibility study on a version for offshore wind but did not have the funding to take it to the next phase.
She made her remarks as the charity published its latest conservation report, showing a quarter of all Irish birds are now endangered after a serious decline in their populations over the past seven years.
A total of 54 species have been included in the latest Red List, a jump of 46pc since the list was last compiled in 2013.
Much loved birds such as the puffin, kittiwake and kestrel have all moved on to the list which indicates their conservation status is of the highest concern.
All native farmland and upland birds are now red-listed, only one of the country’s 24 seabirds is green-listed, and water birds birds have suffered a 40pc decline in 20 years.
“Our big concern is that we’re seeing these trends every time we do this publication,” she said.
“Things are getting worse and worse and we’re wondering what’s going to happen in 2027 when we do the next one.”
Ms Duggan said it was not enough for wind energy companies to gauge the effect of their own activities in isolation.
Ireland’s birds were facing multiple challenges from habitat loss, disturbance, over-fishing, poisoning and climate change through damaging agricultural, forestry and fishing policies, she said.
“Renewable energy and renewable infrastructure is one more thing for these birds to contend with,” she said.
“It is really important when we are considering where we put wind energy that we look at the cumulative impacts.”
She also called for urgent tracking of seabirds on the east coast where multiple off-shore wind farms are planned, to establish how their feeding grounds would be affected, and she called for much more post-construction monitoring of all wind farms
Justin Moran, public affairs head with Wind Energy Ireland said the decline in bird populations outlined was “chilling" and Ms Duggan’s presentation had been “challenging” for the industry.
“I think that’s a good thing,” he said, adding that it was a reminder of the need to build wind farms in a way that was “as sensitive and sustainable as possible.”.