The seminar was organised by the Energy Technology Support Unit (ETSU) -- the Department of Trade and Industry's energy research arm. It was held in response to interest in the topic -- particularly among conservation groups who wished to learn more about existing monitoring studies of birds around wind schemes. "One of the aims was to see if there was a way of stimulating an information exchange between different parties and to come up with a handful of suggestions about methodologies and strategies towards monitoring," explains Mark Thomas from ETSU.
The RSPB, Britain's foremost bird conservation body, endorsed the environmental benefits of wind. "Using a renewable form of energy that produces no pollution is good for birds and the places they live," says the society's Barnaby Briggs. "Birds can co-exist with wind turbines. The simplest way forward is to locate turbines away from important areas for birds.
"One of the most useful things about the day was the reassuring consensus that most people in the room thought that wind farms in the right place do not have any effect at all on bird populations," he says. "There was also a clear understanding, however, that if you put wind farms in the wrong place they do. So far this has not happened in the UK." Moreover, he points out that in a couple of cases developers have proved to be admirably quick to drop plans for wind projects in some of the remoter sites in the UK as soon as studies have indicated that their developments could affect local bird populations.
Delegates heard that standard monitoring in the UK shows no significant effects from wind turbines on bird populations. However, a probable outcome of the seminar looks to be a move towards a strategic approach to research, concentrating resources on a small number of sites. This is seen as a better approach, particularly by ornithologists, who would like to fill the gaps in their knowledge of long term habitat issues.
ETSU expects next month to publish the proceedings from the seminar.