‘Groundbreaking’ project to understand impact of wind farm construction on seabirds

©Lone Gill/SNH

A ‘groundbreaking’ project spearheaded by SSE Renewables, Microsoft, and Avanade could lead to a better understanding on how the construction of wind farms impacts seabirds.

It comes as part of a tender bid from SSE Renewables to a Dutch project seeking to identify innovations that can assist the rollout of offshore wind farms.

The organisations are to attend a conference on wind energy and wildlife impacts in Egmond aan Zee this week to showcase innovations already trialled on a smaller scale in Scotland, which include the monitoring of puffins and salmon.

If their bid is successful, SSE Renewables said that the subsequent work could be the world’s ‘largest’ digital research project of its kind – with it set to be undertaken on a larger scale on the Dutch coast.

The trio have also been testing the use of further technology including light detection and ranging (LIDAR), sonar, and also hydrophones within a North Sea aquarium. The trials, SSE said, have indicated ‘highly promising’ results for practical use in species recognition, abundance monitoring and distribution analysis.

Dennis Breugelmans, SSE Renewables’ project director of international markets, said, “Developing more offshore wind farms should not come at the expense of the ecosystem surrounding the project. By conducting large-scale research into the effects of wind farms on the surrounding ecosystems, and by making the vast quantities of data available in a public platform we can facilitate research and collaboration in a simple way. We can learn in real time how to limit and avoid negative impacts, whilst promoting the positive ones.”

Musidora Jorgensen, chief sustainability officer at Microsoft UK, added, “As we look to accelerate the transition to more sustainable forms of energy, it’s vital that we protect existing environments from negative impacts. By utilising the power of AI, our work with SSE Renewables and Avanade will help to model the potential implications of projects such as Hollandse Kust (west), ensuring the Dutch Government can meet its ambitious targets whilst protecting the surrounding ecosystems.”

Simon Turner, Avanade, commented, “We continue to be committed to the ongoing effort to ensure that renewable energy sources are not only cost effective and able to support the global effort to achieve a carbon neutral position but are also acutely focused on their overall effect on the environment. This project has presented us with a unique opportunity to collect unprecedented amounts of data in unique and innovative ways but to also build a digital twin replica of the environment that will help us model cause and effect in a very transparent way.

“Here at Avanade, we have been able to partner with SSE Renewables to bring a unique approach to the way technology can be leveraged to support the project goals.”