APEM Backs East Anglia ONE with Bird Surveys
APEM Ltd has supported East Anglia ONE offshore windfarm from the project’s earliest days to its recent successful consent, providing data, assessment and expert advice on the development’s potential impacts on seabirds and marine mammals.
The company planned and flew a two-year campaign of aerial surveys over the windfarm area to collect baseline bird and mammal data and developed a migration model to tackle the issue of migratory birds.
Ornithologists from the company also wrote EIA and HRA chapters examining the potential for impacts on seabirds and acted as expert witnesses to present the company’s findings at the PINS Hearings. The company also provided technical input for the EIA and HRA chapters on marine mammals.
APEM’s aerial surveys captured around 90,000 images over the East Anglia ONE area using a novel grid based survey design. Seabirds including gannets, kittiwakes, lesser black-backed gulls, herring gulls, divers and auks were found in the area of the proposed windfarm.
East Anglia ONE is a joint venture between Scottish Power Renewables and Vattenfall Wind Power, located in an area of 300km2 about 48 km off the coast of Suffolk. With a planned maximum of 240 wind turbines, the 1.2GW wind farm would power up to 820,000 homes and be significantly larger than the current biggest offshore windfarm in the world, the London Array.
It is also the first offshore windfarm to gain planning approval using solely aerial bird surveys as part of the environmental impact assessment.
Assessing whether any potential impacts on seabirds would be within acceptable levels requires detailed surveys over at least two years, allowing ornithologists to record which species are present in the area, along with their numbers and behaviour.
Until recently such surveys were carried out by boat-based spotters, who scanned the sea and sky through binoculars. More recently, the surveys have taken to the air. Developments in ultra-high resolution digital cameras have allowed aircraft mounted cameras to photograph huge areas quickly, cost effectively and more safely, while providing data that can be independently verified.
APEM director, Stuart Clough, said: “There is a real sense of achievement to having been closely involved with East Anglia ONE from the early days. The developers were far-sighted enough to back a new survey technique and this is very much the windfarm project on which digital aerial bird surveys have come of age.”
Construction of East Anglia ONE is expected to start in 2017, subject to a final investment decision. Offshore installation work would then start in 2018 and generation from the development is scheduled to come online from 2019.