|LONDON - Two major offshore wind farms in Denmark are giving the lie to fears that birds are being killed by flying into the huge vanes of such installations, a conference heard on Thursday.|
In fact, not only were birds not dying, the Danish farms had actually benefitted the local environment, ecologist Charlotte Boesen of Denmark's Energi E2 energy trading and generation firm told the conference on wind energy.
Birds were simply flying over or around the huge packs of turbines, and the seabed foundations had created an artificial reef that was attracting new species to colonise and providing a haven for fish as trawling there was banned.
"So far the observed effects have been positive," she said.
The potential impact on local wildlife is a key objection to wind farms, along with their intrusive appearance.
But their supporters disagree.
"The wind farm debate is heating up and becoming more polarised. We want to challenge the myths -- that they kill birds ... and deter tourists," Alison Hill of the British Wind Energy Association (BWEA) told the meeting.
With the Kyoto treaty on cutting carbon dioxide emissions about to come into force, making governments -- except for the United States -- search for clean and renewable sources of energy, the wind turbine's star is in the ascendant.
The European Wind Energy Association, organisers of the conference, says it can hit the target of generating 75 gigawatts (GW) of electricity -- or 5.5 percent of EU demand -- by 2010, of which 10 GW could be offshore.
With initiative and government intervention to remove long term support for the CO2 emitting fossil fuel power industry, this could rise to 12 percent by 2020.
But Rowena Langston of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds -- which says global warming must be stopped -- said development was being pushed ahead with scant reference to the impact on the local environment and in particular bird life.
"Until there is more robust information, we are not going to overstep our conservation brief and say a project should go ahead regardless," she told the meeting.
Lawyer and wind farm promoter Marcus Trinick, noted the apparent paradox. He said climate change was the overriding prerogative and that conservationists and the green energy lobby should be on the same side.
Developer Harvey West said much of the problem lay with the industry having failed to consult the locals and having been secretive about the environmental impact assessments of their schemes. This had created enmity and mistrust.
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE