The fourth Conference on Wind Energy and Wildlife Impacts came to a close on Friday 8th September, following four days of presentations, knowledge sharing and discussion on this vital issue. Our very own Kelly Clark (Principal Ecologist) and Rich Hall (Principal Ornithologist) were in attendance; Baker Consultants have now been represented at the event on three out of four occasions, including its inception in Trondheim in 2011. We are proud to continue our strong association with this global collaborative effort to enhance our understanding of the impacts on wildlife from wind energy development, and thereby guide the evolution of mitigation – alongside academic institutions, technology innovators, fellow consultants, and of course the wind energy industry itself.
Portugal’s wind energy industry has already achieved impressive feats. Currently generating around 25% of the country’s energy demand from wind alone, its offshore capacity is also experiencing a surge, and technological advancements such as floating turbines place Portugal firmly at the forefront of wind energy development in Europe and at a global level. With this in mind, the country is the perfect host for the 2017 version of the conference.
Offshore wind energy is a rapidly growing industry; figures this week from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy showed that the cost of generating energy from wind power in the UK will be cheaper than that from nuclear power for the first time in history. Advancements in strategy and technology mean that firms are beginning to overcome the issues and costs associated with logistics, efficiency and electricity storage. If these trends continue, it is likely that offshore wind will become a leading force in energy production across the UK and Europe and, where environmental conditions allow, on a global scale.
A presentation from WavEC Offshore Renewables illustrates the range of floating platforms in current development, advancing the options available to the wind industry.
Offshore Wind: a steep upward curve – a rapidly growing industry around the world.
With this in mind, it was encouraging to see firm commitment from industry and regulators to addressing the issues regarding wildlife impacts. Organisations such as ORJIP (Offshore Renewable Joint Industry Project) have been set up by offshore wind energy firms, in partnership with regulators, to fund vital research into the impacts of offshore wind farms with a view to advising meaningful mitigation, thereby reducing the costs and delays associated with poor science or a failure to fully address the range of potential impacts.
WavEC’s research also illustrates a little-known problem for offshore installations: bats.
Studying wildlife in the marine and coastal environment can be challenging, and gathering the level of data required to satisfy regulatory and legal frameworks even more so. Baker Consultants’ expertise and experience makes us ideally placed to provide an ecological consultancy service for the lifetime of any given project, from scoping and designing/ implementing survey protocols, through data analysis and impact assessment, to post-consent monitoring (construction and operation). Our in-house team includes consultants trained and certified to the highest standards, such as European Seabirds at Sea surveyors, and experts in avian and cetacean bioacoustics, as well as qualified UAV pilots – technology that can be particularly useful in conducting wide-ranging visual surveys as efficiently as possible.
With many years of combined experience in ecological and ornithological impact assessment, including coastal development, and offshore windfarm construction monitoring and mitigation, we also pride ourselves on innovation in terms of both technology and survey/ mitigation design. The growing issue of offshore bats is a case in point: a phenomenon that is difficult to study and poorly understood, but with our technology partners and unparalleled experience of bioacoustic survey, we are rising to the challenge of assessing this potential constraint on offshore development.
The theme of this conference is sharing and collaboration. Held every two years, it showcases the latest knowledge and research in the field, and drives the continuous improvement of techniques, methodology, analysis and assessment. A good example is the way we think about potential impacts – collision risk is still a topic of conversation, but inherent assumptions and flawed science that caused problems for this form of analysis are being driven out by well-resourced and well-funded research. The sharing of knowledge improves our understanding of statistical analysis, detailed monitoring of operational wind farms, and enhancing the importance of factors such as displacement from vital habitat, not to mention barrier effects.
Baker Consultants shares this enthusiasm for robust science, leading to proper assessment and targeted, effective mitigation. Working together with researchers, regulators, technology partners and the wind industry, we aim to promote these values, with a view to supporting the establishment of installations with minimal impact on wildlife, whilst maximising the potential for renewable energy.