The Crown Estate for England, Wales, and Northern Ireland said Wednesday it was investing over £12million in new research projects aimed at enabling the coexistence of offshore wind farms with a thriving marine environment.
Led by Natural England, Scottish Government and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the projects will be delivered and supported by many other public, private and charitable organizations, the Crown Estate, which manages the seabed and half the foreshore around England, Wales and Northern Ireland, said.
"They will explore a wide range of environmental issues, identify evidence gaps and inform how we can collectively implement positive change by improving understanding amongst key decision-makers of how offshore wind deployment could affect marine habitats and wildlife in combination with other activities. This will ensure that we maximise the opportunity of UK offshore wind power whilst protecting and enhancing marine biodiversity," the Crown Estate said.
The projects comprise:
POSEIDON (Planning Offshore Wind Strategic Environmental Impact Decisions) – led by Natural England, this four-year project will improve the knowledge of environmental risks across UK waters and provide tools for future offshore wind planning.
PrePARED (Predators and Prey Around Renewable Energy Developments) – a four-year partnership led by Scottish Government’s Marine Scotland directorate and co-funded by Crown Estate Scotland that will help improve understanding of how seabirds, marine mammals and fish respond to offshore wind farms.
Remote Tracking of Seabirds at Sea – the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds will harness novel tracking techniques over a five-year period to fill critical knowledge gaps in the movements and populations of seabirds, such as puffin and kittiwake.
The Crown estate said that the Offshore Wind Evidence and Change programme was being delivered in partnership with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), working with Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland government bodies, regulators, NGOs and a broad range of industry representatives that play a role in planning for the future of offshore wind.
So far, the Crown Estate said, 25 projects have been awarded funding, with three completed and 13 underway, gathering data and evidence that will help to find space in a busy seabed, enable better understanding of how offshore wind affects the environment and habitats, and inform decision making and understanding around environmental benefits and provision of compensation.
"The Crown Estate is committed to protecting and enhancing biodiversity across all areas of its activity. This programme is part of The Crown Estate’s wider investment in marine spatial data and evidence to improve productivity, drive value and help develop a holistic understanding of the seabed.
"Last year, The Crown Estate undertook a key resource area study to determine where future potential might lie for both fixed and floating wind. Data and insights from this study have informed conversations about the sustainable growth of the offshore wind industry. The Marine Data Exchange is another tool used to share data and encourage evidence-based decisions. The first of its kind, it holds offshore survey data collected by The Crown Estate’s customers throughout the lifetime of a project to help make better choices in the future,"the Crown Estate said.
Dan Labbad, Chief Executive of The Crown Estate, said:"As we face the twin crises of biodiversity loss and climate change, protecting our natural world has never been more important. As managers of the seabed around England, Wales and Northern Ireland, we play a vital role in helping to safeguard our precious marine environment whilst shaping, innovating, informing and enabling the development of offshore wind for the long-term benefit of the nation.
"This investment, delivered in partnership with expert stakeholders, is the latest example of our continuing drive to provide world class data and evidence to support both government and the industry in making the best decisions to unlock the pathway to net zero, in harmony with healthy, biodiverse seas.”