Fast-tracked Scotwind collaboration gathers digital bird data

The survey area is in the North Sea off the east coast of Scotland

A TWO-year digital aerial survey has so far documented the habits of over 75,000 birds following industry leading collaboration between ScotWind developers. 

Four aircrafts flying simultaneously once a month have completed 690 hours of flight time to collect high-definition images across an 11,550km2 area in the North Sea. 

The data collection has been commissioned by renewables organisations who secured rights from Crown Estate Scotland to develop offshore windfarms.

Fred, Olsen Seawind, Vattenfall, Scottish Power Renewables, Shell, SSE Renewables, CIP, Marubeni, Bluefloat, Renantis, bp and EnBW all co-operated to gather the important ornithological data.

The survey was also fast-tracked by the partnership to ensure the information was collected across two full seabird breeding seasons and has to date been flying monthly for 15 months. 

Fraser Malcolm, Ossian Offshore Consents Manager, said: “Preservation and enhancement of the natural environment is a responsibility we take very seriously. Delivering this survey with the collaboration of other developers is an industry-leading example of joint working that is providing vital data on bird species and activity in this expansive area.

“It will help inform the Marine Directorate and the Scottish Government’s understanding of the area, as well as providing us with a platform to develop collaborative initiatives for further bird studies and wider initiatives.

“Collaboration in this area has led to further co-operation among developers which represents a win-win for everyone.

“We are all proud to have played our part. By working together, we hope to accelerate successful project delivery to help Scotland meet their net zero targets.”

Each aircraft involved in the survey is equipped with high-definition camera equipment that captures live footage and is then assessed by ornithology and marine experts.

To date the team has analysed almost 35 million images and documented the habits of over 75,000 birds and over 700 non-avian animals.

Crown Estate Scotland awarded exclusive rights to develop areas of seabed for offshore wind January 2022 as part of the ScotWind leasing round.

The Sectoral Marine Plan (SMP) published by the Scottish Government in advance of the leasing round required developers to undertake regional surveys across two of the Plan Option Areas, E1 and E2, as mitigation for ornithology risk.

Michelle Quinn, Director, Offshore Wind Directorate, said: “We welcome the collaborative approach taken by offshore wind developers to undertake these aerial surveys.

“The outputs from this study have helped our understanding of bird activity off the east coast of Scotland for our ongoing planning work and will continue to inform our future planning and consenting processes. 

“Offshore Wind energy has an important role to play in the transition to low carbon energy sources and we continue to support sustainable development that considers potential environmental, social and economic impacts.’’

The survey area in the North Sea off the east coast of Scotland covers 11,500 km2 and includes the E1 and E2 zones plus a 12 km buffer zone. It has been designed and completed by HiDef Aerial Surveying. The scale of the survey area is shown below.

The survey data will be provided to the Offshore Wind Directorate within the Scottish Government to inform future iterations of the Sectoral Marine Plan.

The joint work has also laid the groundwork for early discussion and collaboration between developers to facilitate and streamline the development of the ScotWind projects and contribute towards achieving Scotland’s net zero ambitions.

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