The winds of change – balancing energy with biodiversity

 

 

Offshore turbines © jpsdk/Dreamstime.comThe offshore wind industry is growing fast and is challenging scientists on potential environmental impacts which could affect birds, seals, dolphins, fish and seabed features, particularly when the effects are cumulative.

 

The UK hopes to reach 33GW of electricity from offshore wind by 2020, nearly seven times the current capacity already installed or under construction. Most of this will be developed through the Crown Estate’s leasing Round 3 which could bring more than 8,000 turbines and some of the largest infrastructure projects in the world, with investment of over £100 billion.

 

The Marine Advice Team at JNCC expects its renewable energy consultation work to increase sharply over the next ten years. This will mainly be through project scoping and Environmental Impact Assessments and will enable us to fulfil our role as the statutory adviser to the regulators and developers of offshore wind outside 12 nautical miles.

 

“As far as possible, we aim to provide advice based on available scientific evidence. However, there is uncertainty and we need to recognise this through appropriate use of the precautionary principle, and by ensuring targeted research,” says Lucy Greenhill, an Offshore Industries Adviser at JNCC. “We are positive that a risk-based approach to consenting of projects will allow necessary energy infrastructure to be built, without harm to biodiversity.”

 

New marine resource management tools such as marine planning (under the Marine and Coastal Access Act and the Scottish Marine Act) will provide a more comprehensive decision-making framework. Good strategic management should also mean that the data gathered to enable offshore wind development will be shared, improving knowledge and understanding of the marine environment.

 

Government departments, devolved administrations, regulators and industry need impartial, practical and accurate scientific advice to address important nature conservation issues. These qualities are essential for us to meet our sustainable development and energy demands in the face of climate change.

 

 

Challenges:

 

Renewable energy without compromise of nature conservation

Regulators must manage the interactions between nature conservation goals and infrastructure construction needed to reach energy targets. Potential impacts on important conservation interests will challenge consultees and decision makers during project planning.

 

New and more diverse consent regimes

We need faster project delivery to reach our ambitious CO2 reduction goals. Planning consent regimes have been overhauled around the UK and devolved powers mean that JNCC advises more authorities and regulatory bodies than ever before.

 

UK and international trans-boundary working

JNCC coordinates inter-agency working within the UK and keeps an eye on international developments, to encourage consistency and sharing of expertise and best practice approaches.

 

Coherent advice

JNCC has a broad remit to advise UK and devolved governments. We aim to ensure coherence from policy to project level, and champion key principles such as sustainable development and ecosystem-based management.

 

 

 

Contact

Lucy Greenhill

Offshore Industries Adviser

Tel: +44(0) 1224 655712