Ørsted Plans Massive Seagrass Restoration as Part of 2.6 GW Hornsea Four Offshore Wind Farm

Ørsted and Yorkshire Wildlife Trust have teamed up to develop a seagrass restoration project as part of Ørsted’s 2.6 GW Hornsea Project Four offshore wind farm in the UK. The initial phase of the project has already started as the Trust was commissioned to collect and plant seagrass seed across a 9.8 acres pilot area, which will be completed by early 2023.

The second phase, which has already been designed, involves large-scale seagrass restoration of up to a further 74 acres of lost meadow in the Humber Estuary and will be launched and funded if Hornsea Four secures development consent early next year.

Ørsted submitted a Development Consent Order (DCO) application for Hornsea Four to the UK Planning Inspectorate in October 2021.

The examination period at the Planning Inspectorate closed on 22 August, which put into effect a period of three months for the Examining Authority to write its report and make a recommendation to the Secretary of State.

This is due to be completed by 22 November, after which the Secretary of State will have three months in which to make a decision.

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According to the developer, if the offshore wind farm secures DCO, the seagrass restoration project could become the largest of its kind in the UK and Europe.

The Humber Estuary once supported vast seagrass meadows across both banks, with records of dwarf seagrass covering over 500 hectares at Spurn Point, and vast swathes from Grimsby to Cleethorpes. Due to industrialisation of the estuary, and subsequent decline in water quality, disease and coastal squeeze, the expansive beds deteriorated, almost completely, between the 1930s and 1980s, Ørsted says.

The Humber Seagrass Restoration will focus on Spurn Point and would be a resilience measure for the offshore wind farm, providing potential new and improved nursery habitat for prey species that seabirds, specifically kittiwake, guillemot and razorbill, depend on.

If fully implemented, the restoration programme could span the next seven years and would see specialists from Yorkshire Wildlife Trust sustainably collect seeds from areas of healthy seagrass, growing them in their seagrass nursery and replanting them in carefully selected restoration areas.

The Trust will liaise closely with statutory agencies, eNGOs and local stakeholders during both project development and delivery, in addition to monitoring and evaluating the restoration project throughout, to assess and quantify a wide range of environmental benefits.

Ørsted noted that the company set set a goal for all new renewable energy projects it commissions from 2030, at the latest, to deliver a net-positive biodiversity impact.

The developer will also implement similar measures as part of its Hornsea Three offshore wind project. Along with the development of the 2.9 GW offshore wind farm, which was granted a DCO in December 2020 and was awarded a Contract for Difference this year, Ørsted will also set up artificial nesting structures for the Black-legged kittiwake.

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“Climate change is one of the biggest threats to biodiversity globally, which is why the rapid shift away from fossil fuels to clean energy is so crucial”, said Benj Sykes, Orsted’s Head of UK Environment, Consents & External Affairs.

“Offshore wind has a vital role to play in the global transition to green energy – but that must not come at the expense of marine biodiversity. We need to make sure offshore wind is part of the solution, not part of the problem, which is why we’re already actively working to test solutions to deliver on our net-positive ambition”.

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Photo: Ørsted