Wind farms could be having a radical impact on North Sea wildlife, a new study warns.
There are currently 167 operational wind turbines off the North Coast, with another 14 under construction, as part of the UK Government’s drive for renewable energy sources.
The first of 60 giant wind turbines has just gone up in the Solway off the Maryport coast and permission has just been granted for a new offshore wind farm off the Cumbria coast, west of Duddon Sands.
But experts believe the farms could be upsetting the ecosystem.
In a paper in the Journal of Marine Systems, Goran Brostrom, of the Norwegian Meteorological Institute, warns that generating power at sea threatens marine life.
He says winds swirling near such farms distort ocean currents as they blow over water.
He said: “I think you will see a large effect over time and you will get more plankton booming because it can cause nutrient-rich waters to rise up from the depths.”
Plankton booms are infamous for causing toxic red tide and for sucking oxygen out of the water. Another expert, Michael Dvorak, of Stanford University, said: “People have been looking at the climate effects of wind farms on land, but this is the first to bring up the question of ocean currents.”
Charles Anglin, communications director for the British Wind Energy Authority, said: “This is just a theoretical study.
We have a two-year process of environmental studies simply to identify potential sites.
“Once the site has been allocated the developers carry out their own study on the local marine environment for one or two years.
“Only then is permission to build considered.”