Blog post amended on 12th December 2019
The planet faces biodiversity collapse and a climate emergency, and there is increasing realisation that both these crises need to be tackled together. More renewable energy is a crucial part of tackling climate change – so why are we objecting to the Morlais Tidal Energy Demonstration Zone off the coast of Anglesey?
South Stack nature reserve is a much visited and iconic coastal habitat. It is part of the Holy Island Coast Site of Special Scientific Interest, in which thousands of seabirds make their home on the cliffs each summer - puffins, kittiwakes, fulmars, over 10,000 guillemots and 1,300 razorbills. For over 180,000 people every summer, the sounds of the seabirds on the breeze are part of their memorable visit to South Stack.
Menter Môn has proposed developing a novel technology in a sensitive ecosystem off the Anglesey coast. It’s a largescale development of turbines, some fixed to the seabed and others floating on the surface. If the scheme, as proposed, is fully developed, up to 240MW capacity of renewable energy might be installed. This sounds like a lot, but we estimate this is only 1% of the electricity Wales is likely to use in 2035.
We welcome that Menter Môn has undertaken surveys to build a picture of the wildlife in the area. However, because the novel technology is untested, they have used modelling to predict the likely impacts on wildlife. The assessment includes a range of estimates on the impacts on birds; an example (which is not the worst case scenario) is that 60% of the guillemots and 98% of the razorbills at South Stack would be lost as a result of colliding with turbines. The cliffs at South Stack could become silent as the seabirds disappear.
We are concerned that monitoring and mitigation measures including phasing would not be agreed until after the development had passed the consenting stage. Illustrative plans presented for the development show zoning concepts to minimise the visual impact of floating devices and to manage navigational issues, but they have not shown zoning plans that could reduce the impacts on wildlife. Floating devices, that are thought to be riskier for diving birds, are shown in the part of the Demonstration Zone that is closest to South Stack.
Our discussions with Menter Môn ’s consultants about how to assess the impacts of their proposals were positive, but we are really disappointed that they did not engage with us about mitigating these impacts before submitting their application.
As it stands, the ecological sensitivity of the location and the scale of the proposed development could have unacceptable impacts on nature which we believe have not been adequately addressed. We therefore had to object to this project. Following our objection, Menter Môn is now in discussion with us. Our aim is to explore with them whether there are ways to reduce the risks to seabirds.
We spend 90% of net income on conservation, public education and advocacy
The RSPB is a member of BirdLife International. Find out more about the partnership
© The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is a registered charity: England and Wales no. 207076, Scotland no. SC037654