SSE Renewables completes ‘one of world’s largest’ offshore aerial surveys

A 24-month aerial survey programme has been completed as part of the proposed creation of wind farms at Berwick Bank and Marr Bank.

The survey, completed by SSE Renewables and Hi Def Aerial Surveying, is believed to be the largest of its kind ever undertaken.

It consisted of four aircraft flying simultaneously once a month for 24 months. Each aircraft was equipped with high definition camera equipment that captures live footage which was then assessed by ornithology and marine experts.

In total, the team analysed over 15 million images and successfully documented the habits of over 338,000 birds and over 2,000 marine mammals.

The proposed Berwick Bank and Marr Bank wind farms would be located in the outer Firth of Forth, over 49km and 40km, respectively, from the East Lothian coast. Scoping for Berwick Bank was submitted in August 2020 and virtual exhibitions held in November 2020. The Berwick Bank team has recently attended virtual meetings with East Lammermuir Community Council, Dunbar Community Council and Cockburnsparth & Cove Community Council to provide an update on the plans.

The Berwick Bank project is expected to be 2.3GW and comprise of up to 242 offshore wind turbines. SSE Renewables said that it would be capable of generating enough renewable energy to power 3.5 million homes annually – more than all the homes in Scotland – and reduce carbon emissions by 4 million tonnes each year, helping power Scotland’s push towards net-zero carbon emissions by 2045.

Alex Meredith, project director for the Berwick Bank and Marr Bank projects, said, “SSE Renewables is a world-leading developer of large-scale offshore wind projects based in Scotland. We are committed to addressing the environmental challenges of our projects by seeking the most detailed understanding possible during the development process. Commissioning such an extensive survey means the proposals for Berwick Bank and Marr Bank will be informed by the most comprehensive dataset on local environmental considerations ever seen for an offshore wind development anywhere in the world.

“The data provided by these surveys will allow us to identify and better understand the seabird and marine mammal population in the area and if required, plan any appropriate mitigation to ensure appropriate protection for wildlife and their habitats.”

Martin Scott, commercial director for Hi Def Aerial Surveying, added, “When first approached by SSE Renewables we did wonder if such a large-scale survey programme was even possible. Two years on we have shown that such challenges can be met and produce a wealth of high value robust data as a reward.”