A UK success story

The UK has more offshore wind energy capacity in operation than any other country. In February 2021, The Crown Estate announced Round 4 of its offshore wind auctions: six new proposed wind farms in the waters around England and Wales. These developments would generate more power than the previous three rounds put together, and Crown Estates estimate that this potential new offshore wind capacity could “deliver clean electricity for more than seven million homes and create employment opportunities across the country”. Hot on the heels of Round 4 are floating offshore wind demonstrators and new leasing opportunities.

Leading the way in offshore wind has had benefits for the UK’s economy, employment and investment, with factories in the UK being commissioned to develop offshore wind solutions, and manufacturing turbines and cabling for export to countries around the world. There are learning hubs offering training and skill development with a growing focus on cross-pollination of industry such as oil and gas, the automotive sector and aerospace.

The Scottish Government have committed the country to reach net zero emissions by 2045. By 2030, ministers want renewable energy generation to account for 50% of energy demand across electricity, heat and transport. ScotWind is the latest round of Offshore Wind Leasing in Scottish waters with an appetite for 10GW of new generating capacity to be built over the next decade.

According to Wind Energy Ireland, just under 400 wind farms have now been established off Ireland and Northern Ireland, but they have warned that key technical and policy blockages need to be worked out for the Government to reach their 2030 targets.

A global proposition

Many European countries, most recently Portugal, have established offshore wind projects. North America is expected to dominate the global market in the next ten years, after launching sites on the East Coast. Their focus has now turned to the Pacific coast, specifically California. There is desire from countries including Brazil and Ecuador to get into offshore wind, so South America is set to be a key emerging market.

In 2021, Australia’s parliament tabled an offshore wind bill, which established a regulatory framework and allowing work on wind farms to start. By 2030, China is expected to host more than a fifth of the world’s offshore wind turbines, Japan and Taiwan have established offshore wind farms and Korea is rumoured to be developing floating offshore wind projects.

Environmental effects

A concern of any large scale development, not least offshore wind, is the effect on the environment and biodiversity. Offshore wind is a highly regulated industry, with many legislative and permitting controls requiring data collation from baseline characterisation and Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) required before any construction work is undertaken. Indeed, this can be challenging in the marine environment where data is sparse and many ecological receptors are mobile and particularly susceptible to environmental variability. It is typical for multi-year surveys to be required before permits are granted and formal monitoring commitments post approval to validate the predicted impacts on the environment and biodiversity.

APEM are proud to lead the way in environmental surveying techniques and technology, delivering the highest-quality data to support the siting, monitoring, and mitigation actions of the rapidly growing offshore wind industry in the UK as well as Australia, the US and Asia.

Technological innovation

In the thirty years since the first offshore wind farm was built, new technology in floating turbines allows wind farms to be built further out to sea, where there is more space, and where winds are stronger and more consistent. Companies are also looking at AI technology to manage offshore wind in the future, as well as using the electricity generated to produce green hydrogen, instead of relying on fossil fuels in the future.

But it’s not just the energy generation equipment itself that has evolved. APEM are proud to be at the forefront of surveying technology for offshore wind, using innovative remote sensing technology to produce consistent, high-quality data. The Ornithology team at APEM have pioneered the use of LiDAR technology in enhanced marine wildlife surveys, to target and monitor bird flight heights to a new degree of accuracy and reduce precaution of modelling collision risks. LiDAR has previously mainly been used for terrestrial surveys and offshore floating metocean monitoring, but this applied science is now helping ornithologists, developers and regulators gain a better understanding of how birds interact with wind farms.

APEM offers an integrated approach

Our integrated expert approach covers all areas of the marine environment, enhanced with innovative remote sensing technology and world-class laboratory services to provide advice reinforced by data excellence.

As well as undertaking marine wildlife surveys from the air to identify and quantify abundance and distribution of marine megafauna, the marine team specialists assist our offshore wind clients in all areas of marine licensing including: assessment of the effects of underwater noise on marine mammals;  intertidal surveys on beaches, rivers and estuaries and benthic surveys to inspect and analyse changes in sediments. Our marine and freshwater laboratories inhouse capacity delivers consistently high quality biological data for samples derived from all aquatic habitats.

The APEM technical team uses the latest statistical and analytical tools and world-class laboratory services to provide accurate results and high-quality solutions. Our reports are tailored to the specific needs of clients, who include regulators, public bodies, private developers and academia.

The future of renewable energy

Offshore wind could power the world 10 times over by 2040. As a world-class independent environmental consultancy, we are proud to support developers around the world to meet their targets for renewable energy sustainably and responsibly.

APEM provides a unique blend of niche specialist scientific services across the environmental and water cycle, whilst maintaining agile, close and trusted relationships with regulators and clients alike.

We have set the best practice standards for aquatic laboratories, marine wildlife surveys and drought planning and remain at the forefront of thought leadership in the most pressing environmental topics of our time such as biodiversity, invasive species and water resources. APEM are world leaders in aerial survey design and in 2017, delivered the world’s largest aerial digital offshore wildlife survey (at the time) off the coast of New York to aid in responsible offshore wind site assessment and project development.

We’d love to talk to you about how we help the offshore wind industry with wildlife and marine surveying, sampling and analysis. For more information, please contact us.


Photo by Shaun Dakin on Unsplash