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NECR505 Edition 1 Offshore Demonstration Site Demand and Feasibility Study (NECR505)

With the UK already home to one of the largest offshore wind capacities in the work and as it now aims to further grow its offshore wind capacities, Natural England commissioned consultants, Opergy, to undertake a desk-based study into the demand and feasibility of an offshore demonstration site located in English waters. Natural England along with other bodies have a duty to advise on industrial and infrastructure developments that could have a potential impact on the natural environment. As such, there is a need to develop the evidence base to ensure there is a clear understanding of the potential environmental impacts and mitigation possibilities in relation to construction, operation and decommissioning of infrastructure and associated activities. The project tested the idea that a national demonstration and trial area where new and novel technologies/approaches could be trialled and monitored would add value for industry, researchers, regulators and conservation and government bodies.

An initial desk-based research and literature review found that while there are test and demonstration sites that do explore environmental impacts, there is no specific facility focused solely on them. A total of 46 offshore trial and demonstration sites, both in the UK and abroad, were explored, with most covering offshore wind while others catered for wave and tidal energies, with the thinking being that some of this knowledge may well be transferable. Key initial findings included that facilities tend to have a commercial motivation in their inception, they tended to be financed through multiple sources, featuring both public and private money, have a presence both onshore and offshore, and aim to offer representative conditions of what the technologies being tested would be facing offshore.

This initial work also shone a light on potential issues that such a site could target, such as the impacts of cable trenching and laying activities; the impacts of new anchoring systems for floating offshore wind in the construction and installation phase; the prevention or removal of biofouling and solutions for protection of corrosion over time during operations and maintenance; cumulative impacts, such as noise, temperature and seabed disturbances from turbines across a whole wind farm and research into the longer-term, exploring the cumulative anthropogenic impact on populations of fish, birds and marine mammals. From this, all stakeholders engaged as part of this study saw value in including existing infrastructure in a network of locations where trialling of equipment, techniques and monitoring of environmental impacts could be encouraged or facilitated.

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NECR505 Edition 1 Offshore Demonstration Site Demand and Feasibility Study, PDF, 1.7 MB 2024/04/30