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Seabirds and Offshore Windfarms – Evidence Review

MacArthur Green has published a report reviewing the current body of knowledge relating to a number of seabird species. The aim is to identify key knowledge gaps in assessing the impact of offshore wind farms on these species.

The literature review, ‘Qualifying impact assessments for selected seabird populations: A review of recent literature and understanding’, was commissioned by renewable energy firms Vattenfall, Statkraft and ScottishPower Renewables and prepared by Professor Bob Furness, Principal Ornithologist at MacArthur Green.

It assesses the level of current understanding in five priority areas, including collision risk modelling, displacement/barrier effects and monitoring effects. It focuses on the following seabird species and populations:

·         Gannet (Bio-geographic, UK, and Flamborough and Filey Coast pSPA);

·         Kittiwake (Bio-geographic, UK, and Flamborough and Filey Coast pSPA);

·         Lesser black-backed gull (Bio-geographic, UK, and Alde-Ore Estuary SPA);

·         Non-breeding great black-backed gull (Bio-geographic and UK);

·         Guillemot (Bio-geographic, UK, and Flamborough and Filey Coast pSPA);

·         Razorbill (Bio-geographic, UK, and Flamborough and Filey Coast pSPA); and

·         Non-breeding red-throated diver (Bio-geographic, and Outer Thames Estuary SPA).

The review highlights areas where further research is required and will be of interest to all those involved in the offshore renewables sector.  

It is available here.

Collision Avoidance Rates: Update

Scottish Natural Heritage commissioned MacArthur Green to report on collision avoidance rates for red-throated diver and great skua. This report is now published, and shows that collision avoidance rates are higher than current 0.98 precuationary rate. Good news for onshore wind farm sites. 

For more information, please read: http://tiny.cc/y88w6x 

 

JWGBIRD Looks at Offshore Windfarms

Work to assess the impact of offshore wind farms on seabirds took a step forward in November, when an international group of experts met to identify gaps in knowledge around the issue, and research projects that could fill those gaps.

The rapid development of the offshore wind industry has given greater impetus to researching the interaction between seabirds and offshore wind farms.  Better understanding of both the collision mortality and displacement rates for birds will not only help to reduce the hazards they face, but will also reduce the consenting risk faced by developers.

The topic was one of many discussed at the recent meeting of the Joint ICES/OSPAR/HELCOM Working Group on Seabirds (JWGBIRD), but was the one in which our Professor Furness, Principal Ornithologist at MacArthur Green, was most involved. He, alongside Sue O’Brien of the UK Joint Nature Conservation Committee, laid out the groundwork for the discussion; in his case based on experience of an ongoing project on behalf of developers, looking for similar knowledge gaps specific to the southern North Sea.

The JWGBIRD project has a more international outlook than simply the North Sea, however, recognising that many seabirds migrate and may pass through offshore wind farms located in waters belonging to several different countries. In particular, the group was interested in input from the Baltic region.

Almost all the focus of wind farm concern has been on the North Sea up to now, but it’s clear there are likely to be developments in the Baltic in the future. There are different species in the Baltic, but the same general issues, ” explained Professor Furness.

For more information, please see the report on the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) website.

Good Practice during Wind Farm Construction

An updated version of a useful guide on wind farm developments has just been published. ‘Good Practice during Wind Farm Construction’ seeks to share the experience gained in planning and developing wind farms over the past twenty-five years or so.

It is a joint publication by Scottish Renewables, Scottish Natural Heritage, Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Forestry Commission Scotland and Historic Environment Scotland and looks at the “post consent, pre-construction planning and construction phase of development” in wind farms.

Overall, the guidance covers a wide range of issues, including pollution prevention, biosecurity and nature conservation. It takes a practical approach, recognising that no two sites are the same, and offers examples rather than decreeing the techniques to be used.

MacArthur Green co-authored the first version of the guidance, published in 2010, and the fact that it has now been updated twice reflects the rapidly evolving nature of the industry – and its practices.

The updated guidance can be found here: http://www.snh.gov.uk/docs/A1168678.pdf 

Looking Forward: Priority Research Projects for Marine Renewables

ORJIP Ocean Energy released the first draft of its ‘Forward Look’ report recently. It is an important step towards reducing the consenting risk for marine renewables projects in the UK.

ORJIP (Offshore Renewables Joint Industry Programme) Ocean Energy is an initiative to deal with the delays and difficulties involved in obtaining consent for wave and tidal developments. One key are of focus is Environmental Impact Assessments and Habitat Regulations Assessments, where sometimes there is very little relevant research on which to base the assessments, or where the data that is available has been obtained using new techniques.

The aim of the programme is therefore to identify and prioritise those areas where further research is necessary and to coordinate the research projects that follow. The hope is that this collaborative approach will help to reduce costs, avoid duplication and speed up decision-making.

After several years of industry-wide discussions, ORJIP Ocean Energy has now published a list of strategic research projects. The Forward Look paper  highlights 21 areas of research as a top priority, but stresses that this is only the first version of the programme. In particular, it warns that initial discussions did not consider tidal range research, and data gaps in this area will be identified in later drafts.

ORJIP Ocean Energy will now focus on progressing research in the high priority areas. While it will not be able to fund the research directly it will work to support and facilitate relevant projects and is seeking to engage with companies and organisations involved in funding and carrying out such research.

According to Kirsty MacArthur (Legal Director), "It is an exciting initiative and one that we believe will have a positive impact on marine renewables. Coordinated research is much more effective than research carried out piecemeal, particularly when there is so much of it still to do!"