THE risk of seabirds colliding with offshore wind turbines is less than half of what would be expected, new analysis has suggested.

A major collaborative study found that seabirds avoided wind turbines more than previously thought and changed their flight path to do so.

Experts said the conclusions from the research on collision risk will allow better-informed wind farm design and decisions on planning consent.

The Offshore Renewables Joint Industry Programme (ORJIP) bird collision avoidance study combined human observer-based tracking with a system that automatically recorded seabird movements at a working offshore wind farm.

Radars were also used to record data 24 hours a day for two years.

During the two years of field work, videos were recorded at a representative area of Vattenfall’s Thanet offshore wind farm off the Kent coast.

More than 600,000 videos were analysed, of which only 12,131 contained evidence of bird activity and only six collisions with turbines were observed.

The collaborative study was commissioned by 11 leading offshore wind developers, The Crown Estate, The Crown Estate Scotland and Marine Scotland.

It was supported with funding from the British Government and was managed by the Carbon Trust.

Jan Matthiesen, Carbon Trust director of offshore wind, said: “Today marks the result of four years of collaborative work from a range of stakeholders, all focused on bridging the gap between the theoretical and real understanding of how birds behave around an operational offshore wind farm. In March 2018, offshore wind generated 12 per cent of the UK’s total energy, its highest contribution to date.

“ORJIP offshore wind has been designed to help contribute to the environmental evidence base to pave the way for a sustainable roll-out of UK offshore wind.

“This study marks a significant step forward on this journey.”