At the end of 2009, ten countries had wind energy projects installed offshore. In Europe, offshore wind farms have expanded rapidly to reach the EU’s 2020 renewable energy target. The recent approval of a wind project in Nantucket Sound demonstrates that the US is ready to deploy offshore wind projects and join the global community in providing clean and renewable energy.
Increased provision of offshore projects requires assessment of potential environmental impacts to birds, marine mammals and other living resources. Avian collisions and other potential impacts to wildlife associated with wind farms need to be evaluated and addressed in terms of population level effects, taking into account particularly vulnerable species as well as cumulative effects of wind developments. Improved models are being developed to better predict population level effects of both individual projects and cumulative impacts of the industry as a whole.
Environmental data must be collected to inform the project developer and the assisting agencies for successful permitting of the project. Over time, offshore survey methods have evolved to reflect changes in technology and knowledge. Presently, we use traditional and cutting edge survey techniques including:
- Collision sensor technology
- Boat based diurnal seabird and marine mammal survey transects
- Aerial high definition videography using fixed wing aircraft or helicopters to conduct marine mammal and seabird surveys
- Thermal imaging
- Marine buoy or met tower based bat acoustic surveys
- Boat based nocturnal avian migration surveys using radar systems with auto-stabilizing platforms to reduce wave clutter
- State of the art kinematic model-based approach for estimation of avian collision risk
Impacts on birds within a project area may include disturbance, displacement, barriers to movement, collisions, and habitat loss. Hamer Environmental can adequately evaluate such impacts and calculate the risks that may be affected by the design, size, number, array and lighting of wind towers at each site.
Aviation warning lights on turbines can also pose a risk to birds and must be carefully evaluated. Many birds migrate at night and are attracted to lights, especially during inclement weather. At such times, these nocturnal migrants can become disoriented, fallout from exhaustion, or collide with tall structures on which lights are mounted. Wind turbines erected offshore may also affect other marine life. In addition, potential conflicts with traditional, commercial and recreational uses such as fishing and boating need to be considered in planning and permitting offshore wind energy projects.
Hamer Environmental can assist clients in assessing any environmental impacts and in making final siting decisions using the latest USFWS Wind Turbine Guidelines Advisory Committee recommendations including:
- Preliminary evaluation or screening of potential sites: Identify regions that may pose risks to species of concern or their habitats; screening of other potential sites.
- Site characterization: Identify the presence of species of concern, designate and map critical habitats, determine if displacement is a concern and assess which species might be at risk.
- Field studies to document wildlife use and predict project impacts: project design to avoid or minimize adverse impacts; develop predictions of impacts and identify any compensatory mitigation measures.
- Post-construction fatality studies: determine the fatality rates of birds, bats and other species of concern; compare predicted and actual fatality rates within a project and with other similar projects; establish a relation of site characteristics to fatality rates and decide whether further specific site measures should be taken to reduce fatality.
For more information on the procedures above, please refer to our Wind Energy Service page.
Hamer Environmental has numerous years of experience surveying in marine environments including: boat-based marine mammal and seabird surveys for the Makah Nation; monitoring of coastal seabirds using ornithological radar in France; monitoring seabird populations in the Channel Islands for a rat eradication project; development and analyses of boat-based transect survey techniques for seabirds in cooperation with the USFWS; and assessments of impacts to seabirds and marine mammals from offshore construction projects for the Washington Department of Transportation.