English Channel projects worth 3.3GW face bird colony challenge

Study supports mandatory GPS tracking of birds for EIAs

Two UK offshore projects and three French zones totalling 3.3GW may harm the feeding habits of a bird colony breeding in the English Channel, a study led by the University of Liverpool claims.

Scientists used GPS technology to track the foraging trips of a colony of Northern Gannets breeding on Les Etacs, a stack immediately offshore Alderney in the Channel Islands. They found that the birds’ routes crossed nine potential marine energy developments, including five major offshore wind projects that have already been leased with a combined potential generating capacity of 3,348MW. These projects are:

• Eneco and EDF’s 900MW-1,200MW Navitus Bay, UK

• E.ON’s 700MW Rampion, UK

• EDF’s 498MW Fécamp, France

• EDF’s 450MW Courseulles-sur-Mer, France

• Iberdrola’s 500MW Saint-Brieuc, France

The study was carried out by the University of Liverpool, the British Trust for Ornithology and Alderney Wildlife Trust and was funded by the Alderney Commission for Renewable Energy. It claims that the tracking of bird species should be made mandatory for offshore windfarms’ environmental impact assessments (EIAs). Existing boat-based and aerial survey methods are incapable of taking into account the feeding habits of birds when crossing international boundaries, it claims.

Concerns over bird populations have already impacted UK offshore projects. Last month, the developers of the world’s largest offshore windfarm under construction, the 630MW London Array, submitted a proposal to expand its capacity to 870MW after scaling back original plans to install 1GW of capacity, due to impacts on the red throated diver.

In July, the UK government scrapped Centrica’s planned 540MW Docking Shoal project over fears about the combined impact of it and two other projects on the Sandwich tern population in the Greater Wash.