The world’s first software-based technique specifically designed to identify the number and species of birds within specific offshore wind development zones has been certified by the UK Accreditation Service (UKAS).
The software analyses high-resolution digital photographs taken during aerial surveys, and was designed by UK-based consultancy, APEM. Tens of thousands of images are taken during a single aerial survey and then analysed by qualified ornithologists. The resulting data are independently verified by the British Trust for Ornithology.
APEM has pioneered aerial bird surveys for offshore wind developers and has been involved, to varying degrees, with seven of the nine UK Round 3 zones. The company recently announced a partnership with US environmental consultancy, Normandeau, designed to offer similar services to developers seeking to build off the US east coast.
The consultancy has also bid for projects in continental Europe and Windpower Offshore understands its services have been reserved for potential use during environmental investigations for the 500MW Saint Brieuc project in French waters.
Commenting on the UKAS stamp of approval, APEM's Janice Haines, said: "The accreditation of aerial bird surveys was a new area for UKAS, so we enlisted a senior independent scientist to act as a technical expert and help set the parameters for the assessment."
Speaking with Windpower Offshore last summer, APEM managing director, Keith Hendry, emphasised the importance of developing increasingly precise techniques for estimating projects' impacts on bird populations. "The scientific knowledge about offshore bird populations has improved exponentially, and data needs to be of the highest-possible quality. Developers need data that cannot be doubted. Species-level identification is now possible, as we have demonstrated," said Hendry.
The UK offshore wind industry has already seen one project, Docking Shoal, blocked due to bird impacts, while the proposed size of the second phase of the London Array development is smaller than originally planned, for the same reason. In addition, research has recently been published drawing attention to the potential impacts on a specific bird species of English Channel renewable energy projects – in both English and French waters.
More positively, research undertaken at two near-shore UK wind farms, Lynn and Inner Dowsing, suggests that one migratory bird species has learned to avoid turbines.