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Case study

Strategic ornithological support for the UK offshore wind industry

The Crown Estate owns and manages around 50% of the UK’s foreshore and beds of tidal rivers, together with almost the entire seabed out to the twelve nautical mile limit. It has responsibility for providing site options and leases for consented offshore wind, wave and tidal energy developments around the UK. The Crown Estate works with the UK Government in advancing projects that have the potential to deliver significant energy supply.

Combined Ecology (formerly BTO Commercial Division) was given the contract to act as secretariat to the Strategic Ornithological Support Services steering group, with the remit to work with other expert stakeholders to identify and oversee work that would provide solutions to help in the consenting process for proposed offshore wind developments.

The key aim was to reduce the consenting risk posed by current critical gaps in knowledge of the effects of offshore wind farms on birds. In addition to acting as secretariat, Combined Ecology:

  • Assessed, with CREEM at the University of St. Andrews, whether bird monitoring data from existing offshore wind farms could be used to estimate change in the use of the wind farm area by different bird species following construction;
  • Produced flight height distribution curves, which can be used to test the effect of different turbine designs on bird collision risks;
  • Worked with Bureau Waardenburg, to assess species of collision risk concern;
  • Reviewed available information on over-sea migration routes, timings and flight heights of migrating seabirds, waterbirds and terrestrial birds features of UK Special Protection Areas, to produce a Migration Assessment Tool that allows the risk of collision to these species to be quantified.

The SOSS programme helped to provide understanding and guidance for use in the consenting process for proposed offshore wind developments. In addition, further priority research required to address remaining gaps in knowledge was identified.