Jul 23 2012

Eagles Threatened by Wind Turbines in Scotland

Whitelee Wind Farm with the Isle of Arran in the background, largest onshore windfarm in Europe

In two separate instances this year – in May and June – the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) in Scotland have fought to prevent wind turbines from being installed in the Scottish Isles.  The wind resource in these areas is profoundly significant. “Scotland has the best onshore and offshore wind resources in Europe, with almost a quarter of the total resource, and onshore wind is now rapidly overtaking hydropower as the renewable technology with the greatest generating capacity,” according to a 2009 assessment by Warren and others. Unfortunately, both sites also contain some of the largest concentrations of golden eagles inEurope.

In May, RSPB voiced strong opposition to a 39 turbine plan on Lewis on the Eisgein Estate.  International Power GDF Suez bought the rights to the project from the estate’s owner, Nicholas Oppenheim, in April.  There are now plans to increase the farm by 30 additional turbines.  The Society has always been opposed to the wind farm, and the expansion only makes this sentiment stronger. Proponents of renewable energy chide RSPB for not consideringScotland’s rural communities, which would benefit tremendously from the development.

Nearly a month later, a report was issued by the BBC that RSPB had retracted their objections to a large scale wind farm project on Stornoway Farm, after the developers decided to reduce the number of wind turbines from 42 to 36. The farm, when completed, could supply power to 90,000 Scotish homes. While the Society withdrew the objections, they remained concerned for the welfare of the golden eagles in the area.  “The challenge now is to ensure that …the development is thoroughly monitored, so that any eagle displacement or collision is discovered, and urgent remedial action taken,” said Stuart Housden, director of RSPB Scotland.

Golden eagle in flight - Attribution to Tony Hisgett from Birmingham, UK

This controversy over the impact of wind turbines on native bird populations is nothing new, and while the effect must certainly be considered, the impact of traditional energy sources should also be taken into account. Proper spatial planning and additional research into turbines that do not attract or even help repel birds is necessary for areas such as this, where wind resources and high bird densities overlap.  If renewable energy technologies are not invested in, what would be the effect of global warming and toxic pollutants from the burning of fossil fuels on the golden eagles? Finding the balance between energy progress and bird protection must be sought, for the sake the community and the eagles.


To read the full articles, visit:




Warren, Charles R., and Richard V. Birnie. “Re-Powering Scotland: Wind Farms And The ‘Energy Or Environment?’ Debate.” Scottish Geographical Journal 125.2 (2009): 97-126. Academic Search Complete. Web. 23 July 2012.

Image under the GNU Free Documentation License from Wikipedia Commons

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