A UK-wide environmental evidence register for offshore wind farms was launched today (10 June), providing a list of evidence gaps and relevant research for impacts on the seabed, marine mammals and seabirds.
The project is being delivered by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC), working alongside the UK government’s environment department (Defra), the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and other stakeholders. It is intended to support the knowledge base for the sustainable development of new offshore wind farms.
The Offshore Wind Environmental Evidence Register (OWEER) should fulfil a number of objectives: increasing awareness of existing environmental impact assessment (EIA) research, avoiding duplication and identifying key funders and researchers, while disseminating new knowledge and encouraging collaboration, debate and change within the industry.
The five-year programme is backed by £25 million (€29 million) of initial investment from the Crown Estate’s Offshore Wind Evidence and Change Programme (OWECP).
Its entries – only 31 so far – include research on how pile driving, used to fix wind turbine towers to the sea bed, affects seals. It also mentions studies on the impacts of noise generated from disposal of unexploded ordnance and on applying biodiversity net gain offshore.
UK environment minister Rebecca Pow said: “We’re pleased to lead on the delivery of the first UK-wide environmental evidence register for offshore wind farms. A greater understanding of the impact these developments can have on our marine environment is vital as we protect our precious marine life and meet our ambitious offshore wind commitments.”
“Ensuring that decisions on future offshore wind farm development are based on the best possible scientific information is vital in helping to deliver the infrastructure needed to achieve net zero emissions, while maintaining healthy, biodiverse seas,” said OWECP manager Mandy King.
The move follows calls for more research on the cumulative environmental impacts of large-scale offshore wind and to minimise the possible impacts of this development on the range of flora and fauna in the North Sea’s ecology as the UK targets 40GW of offshore wind by 2030.
A version of this story first appeared in ENDS Report