Landowners at war over
Wind Farm Threat to Britain's Golden Eagles
|The Sunday Telegraph
7 March 2004
Wind farms - the "environment-friendly" energy source - are threatening to
push the golden eagle, one of Britain's rarest birds, into extinction.
Conservationists say that the rapid spread of the farms in Britain -
encouraged by Government subsidies for renewable energy projects - poses a
grave threat to birds of prey. Other species at risk are osprey, red kites,
merlins, kestrels, honey buzzards, ravens and peregrine falcons.
Thousands of birds - including hundreds of golden eagles - have been killed
after flying into the blades of wind turbines in the US and continental
Campaigners fear that the same is happening here, and are particularly
concerned by proposals for four new wind farms in Scotland - home to almost
all of Britain's 431 pairs of golden eagles. Fears were raised in January
when a red kite was killed by a turbine near Aberystwyth in Wales.
The landowner behind one of the proposed wind farms is Sir Jack Hayward, the
multi-millionaire former chairman of Wolverhampton Wanderers football club,
who made a fortune investing in the Freeport, Grand Bahama Development, on
He is applying to build 36 turbines, each nearly 360 ft tall, on his
13,000-acre Dunmaglass estate, 14 miles south of Inverness, near Loch Ness.
Sir Jack, 80, who says in his Who's Who entry that one of his recreations is
"preserving the British landscape", wants the turbines to stretch for four
miles along the highest ridge of the Monadhliath mountains.
The businessman, whose fortune is estimated to be £140 million, is expected
to receive payments of at least £120,000 a year for 20 years from the
developers, a cost that will be passed on to electricity customers.
The project, in an area of outstanding natural beauty, has infuriated the
owners of neighbouring estates, who say that the wind turbines will threaten
golden eagles and damage one of Europe's wildest and most beautiful areas.
Sigrid Rausing, the owner of the neighbouring Coignafearn estate, said that
the turbines could kill or drive away golden eagles, wrecking her efforts to
encourage the birds.
Dr Rausing, the younger daughter of Hans Rausing, the Swedish industrial
visionary who built up the Tetra Pak packaging empire and is frequently
named as Britain's richest resident, has spent six years trying to restore
the estate as a breeding ground for the eagles after decades in which they
were poisoned and had their nests destroyed.
"We have rebuilt three of the nests and want Coignafearn to again become a
home to these endangered and splendid birds," she said. A pair of golden
eagles has already shown interest in one of the nests and the estate is a
hunting ground for younger golden eagles.
"Birdwatchers come to Coignafearn to enjoy the landscape and the sightings
of vanishingly rare birds," Dr Rausing said. "It is one of the wildest and
most beautiful areas of Europe, which now may be destroyed by an energy
development at the whim of an owner next door."
Coignafearn is also a haven for white-tailed sea eagles, whose "fearlessness
and wing span" would make them particularly vulnerable to the turbines, said
Dr Rausing, who is the founder of the London-based Sigrid Rausing Trust,
which gives £10 million to charities, including environmental groups, every
Roy Dennis, Coignafearn's consultant ecologist, said the wind farm would
"turn a pristine wilderness with unbroken views into an industrial site. The
Government has gone mad".
Sir Jack, believed to be in the Bahamas where he lives for most of the year,
was unavailable for comment last night. Roddy D'Anyers-Willis, the agent for
his estate, rejected the complaints, saying: "I don't think the wind farm
will have much effect on wildlife because wildlife adapts when these things
Renewable Energy Systems, the wind farm company behind the project, said
that it had carried out "comprehensive studies" led by a "highly experienced
ornithological consultant" whom it refused to name. It was confident that
"all wildlife issues" had been addressed. A public consultation will be
carried out from next week.
The other new wind farms proposed in Scotland are at Farr, Glen Moriston and
Tomatin. A spokesman for the British Wind Energy Association, which
represents the industry, said there was "no need" for public concern. "Many
more birds will die if we do not tackle climate change by using renewable
energy and reducing carbon dioxide emissions," the spokesman said. "That is
more important than the odd bird killed by a turbine."
Although no golden eagle has yet been killed by a turbine in Britain, up to
800 have died in Californian wind farms, according to the state's energy
commission. Thousands of other birds have also perished. A study in Sweden
found that 49 migrating birds were killed by one turbine in one night, while
in Spain 6,450 birds fell victim to turbines in one year.
The Government is pushing the development of wind farms in an attempt to
reach its target of producing 10 per cent of Britain's energy to come from
renewable sources - such as wind, the sun and water - by 2010. There are
nearly 100 wind farms, with about 1,000 turbines, in Britain today and
proposals for more are are mushrooming.
Dr Rausing condemned the "obsession" with wind farms. "What mad policy is it
that describes as 'green' energy that costs more in infrastructure than it
will ever produce in energy, and which utterly ruins the landscape on which
it is built?"
We are reliably informed that Sir Jack Hayward is one of the main funders of UKIP, and through his wife recently donated £25,000 to that party.The wind-turbines being imposed throughout rural Britain by what increasingly appears to be an unholy alliance of profiteers and fanatics, are of course not visible from the Bahamas.