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Finalist Wales Green Energy Awards 2015

The 2015 Wales Green Energy Award finalists have been announced and Baker Consultants has been nominated alongside Newcastle University for a Contribution to Skills & Training award!

Our nomination relates to the research and development of bioacoustics survey skills for the monitoring of European nightjar, a species of bird often perceived as being in conflict with wind farm developments and operations. Nightjars are widespread in Wales and can be a considerable constraint to development as they receive special legal protection.

Bioacoustics and the nightjar

Traditional survey methods used to establish the presence of nightjars, a bird both elusive and cryptic in behaviour, are expensive and can necessitate walked transect surveys, tape luring surveys and radio tracking to map their distribution and nest sites.

During 2013 and 2014, we carried out research into the use of bioacoustics survey methods as an alternative to conventional methods.

Nightjar spectrogram (frequency plotted against time) showing a series of major (high frequency) phrases and minor (low frequency) phrases

Nightjar spectrogram (frequency plotted against time) showing a series of major (high frequency) phrases and minor (low frequency) phrases

Andrew Baker, Managing Director of Baker Consultants, says: “At their basic level, bioacoustics surveys involve placing recording devices out in the field, often for extended periods, and recording animal sounds. This has many advantages over conventional surveys techniques, as a large amount of data can be gathered over an extended period of time as recording devices are left unattended for up to three months. Such data is critical, making it possible to establish whether records of nightjar are simply those passing through or those with established territories on the site.This can provide crucial information regarding whether a development gains approval. Furthermore, the costs of bioacoustics surveys are much lower than conventional methods”.

Baker Consultants also funded research by Dr Mieke Zwart as part of a joint project led by Dr Mark Whittingham of Newcastle University. The research proved that the use of bioacoustics was much more effective than established methods and was published as a peer-reviewed paper. This established the value of bioacoustics in nightjar surveying and paved the way for wider use of this cost-effective survey technique. There is also considerable potential for further development of this technique to allow a more detailed understanding of the use of a site by nightjar and other important species.

The Awards

The Wales Green Energy Awards are in their third year, and organised by RenewableUK Cymru to celebrate the success and achievements of the green energy industry in Wales. The award winners will be announced on Friday 6 November in Cardiff.

David Clubb, Director of RenewableUK Cymru, said: “We are always delighted by the quality of submissions for the Wales Green Energy Awards, and this year is no exception. Each of the shortlisted individuals or organisations should feel extremely proud of what they have achieved over the last 12 months, often in the face of challenging political and policy decisions.”

Baker Consultants and Wales

Baker Consultants has been providing ecological services to projects throughout Wales for a number of years and this year we consolidated our presence with an office in Swansea, following increased demand in the region and growth in the renewables sector. Read more in our article here.

Contact a member of our Welsh team today to discuss your project

The third Conference on Wind Energy and Wildlife Impacts was held at the Berlin Institute of Technology between March 10th and 12th, building on prior events in Stockholm (2013) and Trondheim (2011). The bi-annual event brings together representatives from academia, government agencies, industry, conservation and consultancies throughout the world. Over 400 delegates from around 30 countries attended, and Baker Consultants were represented by ornithological specialist Martin Ledger, and marine and ornithological specialist Rich Hall.

It was a busy few days, with more than 50 posters exhibited, 162 abstracts submitted, and 65 oral presentations across two parallel streams. Martin and Rich were not only able to absorb a lot of new thinking and fresh evidence on the subject of wildlife and wind energy, but also had the chance to speak to many of the most important stakeholders in the global industry, as well as fellow consultants and academics at the forefront of the drive to improve our understanding of how to maximise the environmental benefit of wind energy whilst minimising harmful effects on wildlife.

Conference on Wind Energy and Wildlife Impacts 2015

Conference on Wind Energy and Wildlife Impacts 2015

One of the biggest themes at the event was the call to vastly improve the data we feed into our collision risk assessments, especially with the increasing number of huge offshore wind farms across the world. So many studies have shown us that the most widely used models we have do not accurately predict the fatalities that occur at a given site. The industry as a whole needs to improve, and post-construction monitoring should become a fundamental part of this process, enabling us to properly assess, at a landscape scale, the most hazardous zones for wildlife, whether it be birds or bats, particularly with the increasing number of bats reported to be making huge and impressive migrations across the North Sea.

There was also new bioacoustics research and technology presented relating to effective mitigation during the initial establishment of wind farms and the noisy piling activities that affect fish, seals and cetaceans. This is an area in which Baker Consultants is already heavily involved, with recent projects in the North Sea, such as Borkum Riffgrund 1.

Martin and Rich intend to build on the information shared at this event and take it forward into their work, primarily across the UK and Europe, as part of this drive for better methods, better data, better mitigation and better assessment.

Jane attended the Scottish Windfarm Bird Steering Group (SWBSG) Event last week on developing good practice for wind farms alongside birds.

The SWBSG is made up of representatives from the Scottish Government, SNH, Scottish Renewables and RSPB Scotland. The group is working to develop a common understanding of the issues relating to impacts of onshore wind turbines on birds. In particular they are involved in developing a data catalogue through partnership with developers as the foundation for their research programme.

The workshop provided a great opportunity to hear presentations on the latest SWBSG commissioned research and to contribute to future Best Practice Guidance being proposed by the group.

Dr Jeroen Minderman of the University of Stirling presented a study into the efficacy of bird survey methodologies (with a focus on Brown and Shepherd and flight activity surveys) in detecting change in bird populations pre and post construction. The research attempts to produce a model to assess survey power in order to provide a more robust statistical analysis of bird survey results. The model takes into account such parameters such as detectability with distance (based on species), number of surveys and variation in surveyor.

Similarly, researchers from Newcastle University have been looking into observer error in flight activity surveys and found a large variation between surveyors was detected at distances of only 164m. Current guidelines (SNH 2013) recommend surveyors can survey airspace up to 2km away. An overview of habitat management on Scottish onshore windfarm sites was also presented to form the basis of discussion into best practice management for wind farm sites.

Workshops in the afternoon generated lively discussion into issues which would be included in the proposed Best Practice Guidelines – including cumulative impact assessment, habitat management and the guidance itself in terms of it’s scope and content. Developers and consultants were encouraged to become involved with the SWBSG either through the provision of funding, data sharing or through consultation on the Best Practice Guidelines.

To contact one of the Baker Consultants ornithology team please email survey@bakerconsultants.co.uk or for specific Scotland enquiries contact Jane Forrest on scotland@bakerconsultants.co.uk

For more information on the group, email Claire Lacy, Data and Research Coordinator at SWBSG, at info@swbsg.org

 

Renewable UK annual conference – Stand 144

Baker Consultants’ consultants will be conducting a different kind of site visit and are not expecting to encounter any great crested newts or breeding birds at the Birmingham NEC on 5th-7th November.

Come along and meet some of the team, whether terrestrial ecologists or marine mammals experts there will be someone to advise you on your renewables project.

To book an appointment please email info@bakerconsultants.co.uk or call Andrew on 07590 122969.

http://www.renewableuk.com/en/events/conferences-and-exhibitions/renewableuk-2013/index.cfm

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