IEEM renewable energy and biodiversity impacts conference

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

Staff from the Norwich office attended the IEEM Renewable Energy and Biodiversity Impacts conference in Cardiff in November 2012 to learn about professional issues for ecologists working in the renewable energy sector. They heard how this is a particular development sector unlike any other, with a different set of issues.

Staff from the Norwich office attended the IEEM Renewable Energy and Biodiversity Impacts conference in Cardiff in November 2012 to learn about professional issues for ecologists working in the renewable energy sector. They heard how this is a particular development sector unlike any other, with a different set of issues. These issues are largely relevant to ecologists delivering pre-development surveys. They are:

  1. Emerging and rapidly changing technologies, with little published evidence base of effects
  2. Working in geographical areas that might not previously have been developed
  3. A wide range of potential effects – no simple cause & effect approach
  4. Political hot potato ie. plenty of developer pressure

Ecologists need to make special assessments for potential long term and spatial damage, often to near-pristine environments, during the construction of turbine fields, caused by:

  • permanent loss of vegetation: 3m+ wide/.3 – .5 metre above land level
  • barrier to species movement (reptiles & chicks)
  • change in vegetation type
  • disrupted hydrological regime/water quality/run-off (quantum & rate)
  •  over-hydration e.g. peat ‘explosion’/under-hydration e.g. soil erosion
  •  peat desiccation via culverting
  • release of carbon deposits from peat
  •  disturbance to ground nesting birds
  • potential displacement effects from disturbance or from avoidance of the area

Tony Juniper, Patron of IEEM and Chairman, Action for Renewablesasked at the conference,

“what of the downsides, especially in relation to biodiversity? There are several potential negative impacts. One is land take. Wind turbines and biofuels and large-scale solar photovoltaic arrays can occupy land in ways that compete with other uses, including nature conservation, not least through indirect land use changes. Disturbance and collisions with birds and bats can be caused by wind turbines while tidal schemes might have profound impacts on coastal and in particular intertidal ecosystems. All of these risks are real, but can be mitigated, and in many cases transformed from negative impacts and into positive opportunities”.

The Ecology Consultancy has developed a range of ecology skills to meet the requirements of windfarm  developers, including expert ornithology and entomology.  We are now members of RenewableUK.

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