Bern Convention secretariat focuses on Smøla wind farm

03.06.2009 08:00 | pressrelease

The Bern Convention secretariat will investigate whether Norway is in breach of international commitments due to the construction of the Smøla wind farm in Møre og Romsdal county, focusing on concerns in connection with sea eagles.

Norway has been reported to the Bern Convention by BirdLife International on behalf of the Norwegian Ornithological Association. The Bern Convention, to which Norway is a signatory, was set up to protect Europe’s wild plants, animals and their habitats. Representatives from the convention secretariat will travel to Norway in June for an inspection, and make a report to be presented during the convention’s party meeting towards the end of the year.

The secretariat will investigate the claim that Norway did not consider the environment to a satisfactory degree when issuing the licence for the construction of the Smøla wind farm. Following the completion of the wind farm in 2005, an average of five dead sea eagles have been found at the farm annually. The number has varied from as few as two to as many as nine. In all, 21 dead sea eagles have been found at the farm up to and including 2008. So far this year (at the end of May 2009), five discoveries have been made.

However, the sea eagle population at Smøla is in no danger, and the number of eagles have been stabile at 200-250 birds since the opening of the wind farm. The national sea eagle population is estimated to exceed 10,000 sea eagles – which means the population is larger and more robust than it has been for decades. This has been confirmed by the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA).

Despite the population being stabile and under no threat, an extensive research program to look into how to limit losses is underway, both at the Smøla wind farm and at future wind farms in Norway. The programme includes researchers from NINA, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), SINTEF as well as research communities in Denmark and England.

The programme includes the following:

  • Monitoring of sea eagles’ flight patterns at the wind farm, using radar and cameras
  • Monitoring of individual birds using GPS transmitters
  • Weekly searches using dogs to discover dead birds
  • Accurate mapping of the development of the Smøla population
  • Possible measures to help sea eagles notice the wind mills at an early stage

The research programme will run until 2011 and has a NOK 22.5 million cost limit. The Research Council of Norway and Statkraft will contribute about half each.

“Statkraft focuses on power generation with the least amount of negative consequences for the environment. However, we must realise that there is no power generation without environmental impact. Wind power is one of the cleanest energy sources we have, and it contributes to an improved climate, supply reliability and the local economy,” says Tormod Schei, senior environment advisor in Statkraft.

The Smøla wind farm is one of Europe’s largest onshore wind farms. The farm consists of 68 wind mills with a total installed capacity of 150 MW. The average annual power generation is 450 GWh – equivalent to the electricity consumption of 22,500 households.