Wildlife interactions with offshore wind – barometer of environmental acceptability

Few people would dispute that offshore wind is helping decarbonize the power sector. Or question that advances in wind technology is driving global deployment and economic prosperity. Yet, when it comes to the effects of offshore wind on wildlife, the consensus becomes divergent. Divergent because, understanding the scientific evidence is challenging; even to the most discerning offshore wind stakeholder – whether an advocate or an opponent.

Two contributing factors may explain why.

Firstly, wildlife and its interaction with the environment is intrinsically difficult to study. Consequently, research findings are never black and white; only inherently grey. This leaves gaps that give rise to uncertainty. When uncertainty is multiplied across the myriad of evidence, it becomes harder to interpret.

Secondly, much of the evidence is organised to support offshore wind development through an administrative licencing process. Since the process tends to be adversarial, its bias is towards deliberating uncertainty and knowledge gaps. This can introduce ambiguity over the application of research. When the evidence has unacceptably large gaps, permitting authorities will adhere to the precautionary principle. Often filling gaps with expert opinion. A practice that can result in contradictory yet credible views, which only deepens the challenge of interpreting the evidence.

Dr Steve Freeman


Doug Pfeister

Partner and Managing Director - Americas