UK Launches Project to Boost Offshore Wind’s Environmental Compensation

The Crown Estate and the Offshore Wind Industry Council (OWIC) have launched a GBP 3.5 million research project to test the effectiveness of strategic environmental compensation measures around offshore wind developments.

Led by OWIC, the study aims to improve the shared understanding of environmental compensation options relating to offshore wind’s interface with nature, and better coordinate the consenting process for offshore wind projects.

This project could help meet the recommendations laid out by the UK’s Offshore Wind Campion, Tim Pick, in his recent independent report commissioned by the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ), which called for an aligned approach on the delivery of strategic compensation.

The process of developing offshore wind farms requires a thorough assessment of potential impacts on the environment and other sea users, both positive and negative. As part of these assessments, developers must detail steps taken to avoid, mitigate or compensate for negative impacts.

In certain cases, offshore wind developers are required to provide environmental compensation measures to offset potential residual negative impacts. These are generally positive actions taken to support protected habitats or species in locations that may be separate from where a specific development has been proposed.

Currently, there are uncertainties around how to assess the effectiveness of these environmental compensation measures, which has led to delays in consenting decisions related to clean, renewable energy, according to the press release.

In an increasingly busy marine environment, some measures may need to be delivered at scale, and across multiple developments. A more comprehensive bank of data and evidence on the efficacy of these measures can deliver a more strategic approach to compensation and deliver solutions that ensure the ecological coherence of the designated site’s network, said The Crown Estate.

This could reduce consenting risks – providing the opportunity for improved outcomes for the marine environment at a large scale.

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Through the project, OWIC will lead on bringing together key stakeholders including offshore wind developers, representatives from statutory nature conservation bodies, The Crown Estate, UK Government, Devolved Governments, and environmental non-governmental organisations, via the Collaboration on Offshore Wind Strategic Compensation (COWSC) governance framework, and will deliver a shared body of evidence on best-practice, research and practical pilot projects for offshore wind compensation spanning investment in four target measures:

  • Provision of artificial nesting for seabirds – this could be onshore or offshore, such as building nesting structures on disused oil and gas platforms.
  • Habitat restoration and creation
  • Predation reduction – this can involve exclusion zones around protected seabird colonies and biosecurity programmes to improve seabird breeding success
  • Removal of defunct infrastructure

The GBP 3 million will be provided by The Crown Estate and the participating OWIC developers will contribute around GBP 500,000 financially as well as provide in-kind contributions, including access to schemes and specialist technical resources.

The OWIC developers participating in this project comprise ScottishPower Renewables, Ørsted, Vattenfall, Ocean Winds, SSE Renewables, RWE, Equinor, bp, TotalEnergies, and Corio Generation.


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